News: Muscatatuck: not your ordinary military training environment (Part 1)
Story by Staff Sgt. Tomora Clark
This article is the first in a three part series illustrating roles people play at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center:
Part 1 focuses on the Civilian Leadership and observers
MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. – An explosion just occurred in a small, American town. The emergency response broadcast is blaring a message of caution over its loud speaker to the concerned citizens affected by the blast. Burning buildings, clothes scattered in every direction, debris blocking once passable roadways is only a small portion of what is seen.
Are these visual effects of the latest blockbuster-apocalyptic movie from Hollywood? No, this is the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center where realistic training takes place to prepare emergency personnel to respond to catastrophic events.
The MUTC is a 1,000-acre urban training site that emphasizes real world situations near Camp Atterbury, Ind. Many civilians and military personnel work together in a “real” incident to help the citizens of that town.
“It (the environment) replicates an actual American town,” said Jay B. Norris, observer controller/trainer division chief from Edinburg, Miss. “It has all the facilities of a typical small town, and that is the type of environment (emergency personnel) will be operating in after a disaster strikes.”
“The scenario is set in an American city where there has been a nuclear detonation, and these units are responding to that disaster,” Norris added.
The training at MUTC is a part of an exercise called Vibrant Response 13-2.
Vibrant Response is defined as a major field training exercise conducted by U.S. Northern Command and led by U.S. Army North (Fifth Army). Approximately 5,700 service members and civilians from the military and other local, state and federal agencies are training to respond to disasters in a timely manner to assist the American people in time of need.
“Working together as a team (military and civilian) is extremely vital to this training,” said Jim Covington, a branch director at MUTC.
“It is to be an integral part of the orchestration that we are all working toward a common goal, or a common objective; it is absolutely critical,” said Tom Phillips, the incident commander for Muscatatuck.
The civilian agencies play a crucial role in the level of training and the overall outcome of the military’s performance at the MUTC.
“My role is to manage the entire area that I’m given after an incident takes place and assign missions to be completed using both military and civilian assets for training purposes, and I manage the Muscatatuck training area,” Phillips said.
One of Norris’ roles as an observer is to ensure the military units involved in the training complete assigned tasks in a timely, accurate manner.
“As a branch director at MUTC, my job is to direct assets that I have working in my area to address the needs of the public. I would essentially be a first responder with the military as second on site,” Covington said.
Not only do the civilian agencies play crucial roles at the MUTC, but the military plays an equal role to the success of the training.
“They (the military) are what we would call second responders to any incident,” said Norris “They arrive right behind the firemen, right behind the police, and they’ve been asked to go out and survey the area, for hazardous materials or in this case, radiation.”
“They (the military) are trying to determine for the first responders if it’s clear and clean so they can operate: Move in and assist the local population,” Norris continued.
It is important to be a part of the orchestration all working toward a common goal, or a common objective, said Phillips.
For this particular route reconnaissance training, Joint Task Force 16 was attached to the civilian “first” responders. JTF 16 is comprised of three National Guard units: the 53rd Civil Support Team, Stout Field, Ind., the 51st Civil Support Team, Battle Creek, Mich., and Company C. 1-151 (notional) Response Force.
“The National Guard units that are augmented to us (civilian responders) are doing route reconnaissance to provide information to us at the command post,” said Covington. “It gives us an indication of where the civilians are located, what type of injuries they might have sustained, and how critical it might be for us to get in that environment and get them out.”
“Their (JTF 16) goal is to train to support the first responders in our country,” Norris said.
“Essentially, we sing with one voice because if just one person is off key then the harmony doesn’t work,” Phillips said in response to the military and civilian cohesion. “We are all doing the same type of response and operation; however, the terminology and the leadership structure may look significantly different.”
Training at the MUTC in part of Vibrant Response is important to the general success of recovering from a real world American incident.
“This is a journey that civilians and military must take together to get better at what we do,” said Phillips. “Every time we do Vibrant Response, we (civilian and military players) learn from incidents of the past training and get better.
“I think classroom environment is important but when you get an opportunity to get out on the ground and do an exercise such as Vibrant Response at MUTC; it’s a great opportunity,” Covington said.