By George Markfelder, JFHQ-NCR/MDW Public AffairsOctober 12, 2012
WASHINGTON (Oct. 11, 2012) -- More than 300 first responders from dozens of military and civilian organizations in and around the National Capital Region practiced life saving and emergency response techniques during Capital Shield '13; an annual training exercise conducted by the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region from 9 - 12 Oct.
Capital Shield 2013 includes a variety of Homeland Defense and Defense Support of Civil Authorities scenarios bringing federal and local agencies together to realistically test interagency operability to an event impacting the District of Columbia, Va., and Md.
"This is a great opportunity to work with our interagency partners and focus on the procedures needed to save lives and protect property during an actual emergency," said Cory Wright, JFHQ-NCR, Chief Exercise Branch. "We have approximately 200 individual first responders here at the DC Fire Academy and a more than 100 responders at other locations."
The training scenario involved simulated acts of terror, severe weather and mass casualty incidents that provided an opportunity to practice communicating with and working alongside the myriad first responders in the NCR.
"Our work evolved over the past 40-years from mostly construction accidents, to responding to large events such as the 911 attacks on the Pentagon to the recent building collapse in Prince Georges County in August," said John A. Donnelly, Deputy Fire Chief Washington D.C. Fire/EMS Department and also the incident commander during the exercise. "Today my department is working primarily the Incident Management Team as well as a rescue squad and caving unit task force. This type of training's biggest benefit is the networking between the various responders operating in the D.C. area and of course the specific training for technical rescue folk is great."
According to JFHQ-NCR exercise planners, this type of training contributes to overall regional preparedness and demonstrates the military's ability to effectively communicate, share information, and work alongside its civilian interagency partners in most any scenario.
"My Soldiers are using the new plasma cutters, four new 10-ton dump trucks as well as a number of other upgrades we have received from the Army's Force Modernization Program, and this exercise really gives them a chance to use this equipment as they practice their skills," said Capt. Langston Turner, the 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company Commanding Officer. "Our main focus is to work in the incident command structure with the D.C. Fire Department who is the Incident Commander at this exercise. We support them here just as we would in a real world incident."
The 911th was originally activated in 1989 as the Military District of Washington Engineer Company, and was modeled after a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Heavy Task Force.
On Sept. 11, 2001, the unit was put to the ultimate test when terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the west side of the Pentagon and for 10 days the company was engaged in rescue and recovery operations. On Sept. 11, 2006, the five year anniversary of the attack on the Pentagon, the MDW Engineer Company was officially re-designated as the 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company.
"Capital Shield provides a great venue to hone individual and unit skill sets for military personnel to support federal, state and local agencies during consequence management operations," said Wright. "Responding quickly with the right support for civil authorities demands a common frame of reference. We are shaping the operational environment when we work with our civil partners -- comprehending our strengths and weaknesses and, most importantly, truly communicating when we talk with one another."
The command routinely conducts exercises such as CS13 to enable its service members, as part of a joint, interagency team, to maintain a high level of tactical and technical proficiency needed to operate and succeed in the complex environment of the National Capital Region.