By Mark DiamondAugust 30, 2012
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - According to the U.S. Army antiterrorism regulation, AR 525-13, "[Antiterrorism] training will be afforded the same emphasis as combat task training and executed with the intent to identify shortfalls affecting the protection of personnel and assets against terrorist attack ..."
In other words, "Point Defender."
Point Defender is a Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command antiterrorism and force protection exercise held annually at the command's east coast ammunition port, Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, N.C.
As part of Point Defender 2012, held Aug. 20-23, personnel assigned to the 596th Transportation Brigade at MOTSU worked through dozens of scenarios designed to develop, refine and test the command's antiterrorism response procedures.
Located near Southport, N.C., MOTSU has served as the U.S. Army's primary continental United States common-user ammunition terminal in support of forces deployed around the world for more than 55 years.
According to Larry Ragan, an SDDC antiterrorism officer who oversees the exercise, during Point Defender 2012, the 596th was responsible for demonstrating adherence and response to several key areas, including: implementation of antiterrorism measures; threat attacks on Army information systems; medical mass casualty scenarios; memorandums of agreement with local response agencies; and much more.
"It's just not an emergency services and law enforcement exercise; we're involving the entire installation," explained Ragan. "Some scenarios involve casualties. What are they going to do? They're going to report their personnel status. Some scenarios involve damaged equipment. If you lose a piece of equipment, what's the process to buy another one? Point Defender is growing every year. It's bigger than just the fire department, police and guards. It's much bigger, just like it should be; just like it would be in real life."
Ragan said a contract staff, supported by the SDDC G2 directorate, began planning Point Defender 2012 nearly a year before the exercise kicked off. He said the G2 staff - made up of antiterrorism officers, an intelligence officer and an industrial security specialist - helps the contract staff execute the exercise, supporting them with additional expertise and manpower.
"The exercise starts out with a bang, which puts [MOTSU personnel] in the right mindset, and then we spread out the scenarios and we set the pace to give them time to execute, reset and discuss any issues they might have," said Ragan. "We also hit them with a variety of exercise scenarios, on land and on the water."
Ragan said the purpose of Point Defender is two-fold: "Not only do we exercise our plans, we provide community emergency responders a platform to execute their plans and test their staffs, as well. I've got the casualties and I have the transportation to get them to the hospital, and that provides [the hospital] a platform to exercise their emergency plans. That's the mutual aid we're working toward. And in the event a real-world mass casualty incident occurs, we're both prepared to handle the situation together."
In fact, a mass casualty event on the final day of the exercise was designed to test emergency services capabilities and mutual aid agreements with Dosher Memorial Hospital, located in nearby Southport. In this instance, nearly a dozen simulated casualties were transported to the hospital.
"We do these exercises so everyone - on MOTSU and in the local community -- can self-discover their own successes and their own shortfalls," added Ragan. "It's all about relationships, and they do that very well here."
In addition to Dosher Memorial Hospital, Point Defender 2012 included a host of community emergency services agencies, including the Wilmington, N.C., Police Department's Joint Terrorism Task Force and Southeastern North Carolina Airborne Law Enforcement (helicopter) unit; the New Hanover Sheriff's Office Explosive Ordnance Disposal team and Boat Unit; and the local Coast Guard Auxiliary.
In one scenario, a local law enforcement boat with side scan sonar capabilities assisted in detecting an improvised explosive device tied to a pier under the water.
In another scenario, a Wilmington Police Department helicopter unit using an infrared camera assisted in the apprehension of a suspect who fled into a forest during a nighttime exercise scenario.
In addition to local emergency services agencies, Point Defender 2012 included several military organizations that added increased expertise and realism, technology demonstrations, and more.
Two course managers and a senior instructor from the Department of the Army Civilian Police Academy at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., acted as exercise observers/controllers; and several representatives from the U.S. Transportation Command Force Protection office and MOTCO Fire Department assisted, as well. Additionally, the USTRANSCOM liaison to the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate held several Distributed Sound and Light Array, or DSLA, demonstrations during this year's Point Defender. DSLA is a non-lethal acoustical and optical device that provides hailing and warning capabilities.
"I'm not a law enforcement guy; I don't know how the MOTSU police should park their vehicles when they respond to a specific scenario. I also don't know the right way to fight a fire," Ragan explained. "But we make sure we have the pros on our team who can do that."
Also assisting in the exercise was more than 30 Reserve soldiers and airmen. The Reservists -- from the 533rd Military Police Battalion, Cary, N.C., and the 931st Security Forces Squadron, Wichita, Kan. -- played a huge part in the exercise, providing role players, safety personnel, opposition forces, exercise control center staff, and more.
In addition to including a variety of subject matter experts and technology demos, also new for Point Defender 2012 was the requirement for MOTSU to provide situation reports to Headquarters SDDC via a daily video teleconference. Several headquarters directorates were incorporated into this year's exercise, including the SDDC antiterrorism office and provost marshal (G2 directorate); the current operations center (G3 directorate); and the Critical Infrastructure Risk Management and Continuity of Operations offices (G5 directorate). Ragan said the daily SITREP brings an additional layer of realism to the exercise.
"Trusted agents" from MOTSU were also on hand to assist the SDDC exercise team, and Ragan said the support his team received from MOTSU this year was phenomenal.
Whether it was bringing in extra train cars for a scenario, or allowing the exercise team to borrow all-terrain vehicles, or creating a no-notice communications outage, Ragan said the MOTSU staff came through time and time again.
"It's absolutely perfect here. They got it," he added. "They understand. This [exercise] is about them. We're giving them a platform to train their folks and they're taking full advantage of that."
Ronald Waidlich, the 596th Trans. Bde. director of emergency services, agreed that Point Defender is the perfect exercise platform.
"When I came here, my vision was to increase the security posture at MOTSU, and one of the ways we did this was through annual [anti-terrorism] exercises," Waidlich said. "These types of exercises are required by regulation, but to take it to the point that SDDC takes it ... it's incredible."
He added that these types of exercises are crucial. "[Point Defender] shows us where our weaknesses are and it helps us practice our strengths. It also helps demonstrate if our procedures work or don't work."
Waidlich said Point Defender 2012 may be the best exercise yet, especially with the addition of outside subject matters experts and new capability demonstrations.
Ragan added that although Point Defender is an exercise, it's clear MOTSU was taking it very serious.
"They want to win," he said. "They take this personally. And if that's the attitude they have and it motivates them to do their best, so be it.
"We're not here to make sure MOTUS fails," said Ragan. "We're here to test their plans and test their personnel; we're here to make them better. When we pack up and walk out the door, we want to leave them with a validation of their standard operating procedures and other response requirements."