By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterMarch 21, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 21, 2013) -- Casualties and bullet casings littered the streets while chlorine gas choked and killed civilians and Soldiers during the All Hazards Exercise March 13 around post.
The artificialities of the exercise tested first responders, Flatiron, Criminal Investigations Command, medical teams, and communications systems throughout the installation, according to Col. Stuart J. McRae, Fort Rucker garrison commander.
"Our public safety [teams], police and fire crews, practice their emergency response procedures on a regular basis during smaller scale exercises. This was the capstone event to those smaller scale training drills," he said.
The capabilities of the post were tested because officials wanted to practice and validate plans in case of an emergency to ensure people are protected to the fullest extent.
"We want to make the exercises hard to make sure we test all aspects of emergency response. If there are new techniques or ideas, we want to test them out to ensure security and its ability to work," said Willie Worsham, Fort Rucker emergency manager.
The exercise began when two vans infiltrated Tank Hill Gate March 13 around 9 a.m., but the storyline and characters were developed weeks prior to help the Crisis Response Team have a full experience when dealing with hostile situations.
"For this particular exercise, events occurred in Mexico that lead up to today's exercise. The Houston County Sheriff's Office received a tip about one of our suspects from this cell. Police searched his living quarters, and they found precursor materials for improvised explosive devices and they found maps of Fort Rucker and Fort Benning, Ga.
"We also found a manifesto that the suspects believed in that was anti-government and anti-military. All this information lead to the belief that he would at least attempt to harm Fort Rucker and the community in some fashion," said Worsham.
It was members in that cell that attacked the base, according to officials.
At the first simulated scene, terrorists intended to release gas or a bomb at a heavily populated area but they crashed before they could and accidently killed themselves while releasing the gas at the corner of Dustoff and Ferrel Streets.
Military police were first on the scene, responding within five minutes and soon a headquarters was set up in the field behind the veterinary clinic. The dogs and handlers at the kennels were contaminated and began having respiratory symptoms such as coughing, and several died in the exercise. There were two simulated Soldier casualties and three terrorist casualties at the immediate scene.
The goals of the exercise were met and valuable lessons were learned by everyone involved, said McRae.
"Though the likelihood of an event of this nature occurring on Fort Rucker is extremely low, we have to be prepared to react to the worst of contingencies should they occur," he said.
Techniques to ensure that the Installation Operations Center has an appropriate common operating picture for the overall situation with sufficient detail for senior leaders to be able to make informed decisions in a timely manner was one of the main lessons learned, according to the garrison commander.
"We also honed our ability to use augmentation forces," he said.
The exercise evolved further with a simulated attack on Yano Hall not long after the initial attack, forcing responders to handle two separate scenes at the same time.
Actors and dummies were scattered across the parking area with medics attending to both. Some were dead while others were severely wounded.
In the second attack, students at Yano Hall were fired upon with RPGs, AR-15s, and 9mm Berettas, according to Master Sgt. Pedro San Miguel, provost sergeant.
"Once the police arrived on scene, they took some shots at the men firing. Once the bad guys ran out of ammo they fled. Several people were shot in the exercise," he said.
All three terrorists were shot, but one was taken down by a military working dog, Rocky, before so. The dog was also wounded in the exercise, along with another MP, leading to them both being medically evacuated by helicopter.
Though there were a few hiccups during the exercise, McRae said that the situation responses were handled appropriately.
"I was very pleased with our first responders. They reacted in a manner that kept the events from escalating and ensured that the impacts associated were reduced to the lowest level possible," he said.
Local community authorities, such as the Dothan Police, participated as well as observed to learn from the exercise.
"We had the assistance from the Enterprise Police Department, the Houston County EMS, the FBI and the Emergency Management Agencies from Coffee County and the State of Alabama," said McRae. "These agencies were extremely helpful in making this a successful exercise. Because of Fort Rucker's proximity to local municipalities, anything that occurs on the installation will undoubtedly have an effect off post."