News: Testing the limits, force protection exercise in emergency management
Story by Sgt. Angela Parady
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo - A fuel tanker overturns on the road inside Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. Some of the fuel spills and contaminates the surrounding environment. An individual drops a suspicious looking package outside the main gate to the military installation. A man digging outside the post strikes a fiber optic cable, disrupting all communications inside the base. A fire breaks out at Camp Bondsteel’s fuel storage facility. A former employee starts firing rounds into the base gym.
All these scenarios could happen on a military installation, but you certainly wouldn’t expect them to happen all at once. Camp Bondsteel played out a worst-case scenario, laying out all of the above events in a 48 hour time period. With so many scenarios occurring in a short-time frame, it tested the limits of emergency preparedness.
Della Hodges, director of Area Support Team, Balkans helped facilitate the two day force protection training exercise that incorporated agencies responsible for keeping the installation safe to test their readiness.
“This is part of real life,” said Hodges. “You are never going to just do one thing. Everyone multitasks every day. You have different things going on, and you have to deal with many things at once. Why shouldn’t we test all those things at once with this exercise to make it more realistic? Rather than just do one thing, check the block and say, we are good. That’s not realistic. We are trying to make it more realistic.”
The exercise combined six scenarios to create a multilayered problem that the different agencies that operate on Camp Bondsteel had to work with. Hodges wanted to make the exercise as realistic as possible.
Spc. John Daniels is a military policeman deployed with the 132nd Military Police Company, South Carolina Army National Guard in support of Multinational Battle Group East, and the NATO peacekeeping mission here. He was on duty during the exercise which took place March 28 to 29. Daniels said the purpose of the training was to decrease reaction time, improve communication between each element in the battle group and reinforce readiness when responding to an incident.
The Anti-Terrorism, Force Protection Manager for the installation, Dan O’Brien said his department responds to single source incidents on a daily basis. But testing multiple incidents required more thinking and more management.
“They will have to set up a communications command post,” he said. “It is going to be important to make sure that the lines of communication travel from the scene to all the response centers inherent to that incident. We also need to make sure they are successfully making people aware of the incident.”
O’Brien said that in these situations, the military police is always the first responder. They are the first ones to get to the scene, assess the situation and inform the commander.
“The fire department and medical personnel fall in next to respond,” said O’Brien. “Going on, we may need the department of public works to provide material and equipment handling, to evaluate the hazards so that we can ensure we are keeping a safe and secure environment.”
Daniels, a native of Lexington, S.C., said that the overall communication between each of the involved agencies went very smoothly. They responded appropriately and in a timely manner.
“The training and preparedness of each individual group allowed for an understanding of, and the success of the overall mission,” said Daniels.
The scenarios allowed the first responders to see what they could improve on going forward. Every situation is different, and a simulated event is going to vary from a real-world event.
“Repetitious training creates confidence, and I am confident that the level of preparedness is much higher as a whole on Camp Bondsteel,” said Daniels. “We conduct numerous training exercises, between the first responders and the battle group, and I feel we are ready to handle any real world scenario.”
The Department of Defense requires all military installations to keep up-to-date on emergency procedures as applicable in their region. O’Brien says this isn’t the only reason they conduct this training.
“Going through these exercises and making sure everything comes together as it should is just the right thing to do. We need to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep our soldiers safe and secure.”
O’Brien described the working relationship between the support team and the battle group.
“AST provides a safe and secure installation for MNBG-E to be able to come back to, and have the command and control and be able to recover from the missions,” he said. “MNBG-E makes sure that there is a safe and secure environment outside of the installation.”