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    Integrated drill and training scenarios access Earle's readiness

    Integrated Drill and Training Scenarios Access Earle's Readiness

    Courtesy Photo | NWS Earle Fireman Jeffery Petrauskas checks the bandage on the "wife of the shooter's...... read more read more

    08.13.2009

    Courtesy Story

    Navy Region Mid-Atlantic

    A Sailor is shot by her husband in their temporary quarters aboard your base.

    He flees the scene. The installation is shut down while Security mobilizes and begins the search for the shooter. The Emergency Operations Center is activated and the Mid-Atlantic Region Operations Center is notified. Local police step up patrols surrounding the installation. The initial SITREP goes out.

    The shooter is found holed up in the base club and he's taken three MWR employees as hostages! NCIS is on the scene and the state police's SWAT team is on the way to assist when it's discovered that the suspect is a not-too-stable, white supremacist that may have a history of spousal abuse and other violence.

    The shooter is demanding to speak with the skipper, the national media wants answers and you were hoping to get off work on time so you could sneak in nine holes of golf before dinner.

    A nightmare scenario?

    Not if you found yourself aboard Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck, N.J. last Wednesday. Rather, it was an integrated drill and training scenario involving the command, its tenants, NCIS, customs agents and state and local police. The drill was also observed by the Navy Mid-Atlantic Regional Training and Readiness Team as part of Earle's Higher Headquarters Assessment.

    Capt. Mike Mosley, the region's training and readiness director said in his team's out brief that the all-day training scenario was one of the most detailed and well-planned exercises he's seen since he began conducting higher headquarters assessments for Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic nearly three years ago.

    Capt. Mosley continued in his assessment that the Earle team conducted "a very aggressive scenario." And "all parties indicated that this was some of the best training they've ever conducted."

    Last January, NWS Earle Installation Training Officer John Horton met with Earle Commanding Officer Capt. Gary Maynard to discuss this year's Higher Headquarters Assessment inspection. Capt. Maynard urged Horton to incorporate elements from outside the station's fence line in the drill.

    "When I took the skipper's requirements to the Installation Training Team, we immediately decided to invite the New Jersey State Police to train with us. But we needed to find out how they trained and what types of scenarios they'd be interested in training to," says Horton.

    This prompted an ITT visit to the Six Flags Great Adventure Theme Park in Jackson, N.J. last winter as elements of the state police practiced responses to hostage and live shooter scenarios. In the spring, NJSP divers drilled with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group TWO off NWS Earle's 2.5 mile finger pier in Raritan Bay. A mutually-beneficial working relationship developed from there.

    "Primarily, the State Police were interested in drilling hostage and negotiating scenarios," explains Horton. "They also wanted to incorporate a training element so that members of multiple teams could practice their skills. Drilling and training are usually two elements the Navy keeps separate."

    Navy security forces train extensively, of course. But when these forces are being inspected and graded by higher authority, training is not usually incorporated into the drill sets. But "not usually" didn't equate to "can't do it" when the ITT sat down to discuss potential scenarios.

    "The State Police also wanted to incorporate an additional element of realism by using 'simunitions'," Horton says. Simunitions are paint ball-type projectiles which can be used with real police and security weapons. Earle Security had trained with simunitions before, but they'd never been incorporated into an on-station drill.

    Once again, the Earle ITT and Capt. Maynard felt that "never been incorporated" didn't mean "couldn't be done."

    According to Earle Security Director Ty Brown, simunitions add a layer of realism not usually found in Navy training scenarios.

    "Simunitions instantly reinforce bad decisions; they hurt!," Brown says. "They impress upon our Rapid Response Team members the need to be aware of their surroundings and to know and trust their training."

    "As we developed a workable scenario for the drill, we hadn't thought that the response team would be involved," Horton says. "But with the addition of simunitions to a built-in training mode it made sense to allow them to train too."
    From there participation began to snowball.

    Safety would need to be more involved with the drill and training to ensure the safe use of the simunitions. Officers from the federal government's Immigration and Customs Enforcement signed on to be the 'bad guys' and provided additional safety observers. Hostage negotiators from the Naval Criminal Investigation Service and the NJSP were enlisted so they'd be able to hone their skills. And Sailors and civilian employees from around the station were tapped to play roles as varied as local newspaper reporters and assaulted wives.

    Other elements included in the final drill scenario included actually securing the installation gates for an hour and restricting movement around the station. It required responses from the fire department to treat and transport the injured; fleet and family services to assist with rescued hostages; public affairs to answer media queries and the command staff in the Emergency Operations Center to coordinate all these efforts.

    Integration is the new N7 watchword for training aboard naval installations. Shore establishments have been directed to emulate their sea-going counterparts by coordinating training opportunities with all segments of the command including tenants and, if practical, area civilian agencies.

    "It just makes sense for us to train with the Navy," says Field Training Officer Sgt. Joseph Sansone of New Jersey State Police Troop C. "It gives me another, different kind of opportunity to assess Troop C's response to real-life crises."

    Sansone says he is usually limited to conducting training in school buildings. But schools might lull his teams into a false sense of proficiency. NWS Earle offered him a brand-new training ground.

    "The base club where we conducted the live shooter training was a low-light environment with cramped, unfamiliar hallways. It was very different than what we are used to," Sansone says.

    It is also very important to the N.J. State Police to develop a relationship with the security team at Earle, says Sansone. It might take a few hours for an NCIS hostage negotiator to get to the station. "We would probably be called in the interim, so it's important we're familiar with the base and how you operate," he says.

    "The rapport we've developed with Earle's CO, and XO is excellent. Your security director and training officer are top shelf folks. We were genuinely flattered that they asked us to train with the Navy units," says Sansone.

    "The realistic, integrated scenario that John (Horton) and the Earle IT Team set up taught us a lot," says Joe Epolitto, Earle's director of emergency management. "We sent too much info to the ROC. But we did get enough information to the skipper so he could make appropriate decisions. The EOC staff controlled the situation and the myriad of agencies involved."

    Eppolito says integration is the wave of the future when it comes to training. "The integrated scenarios can be really intimidating ... but that is real life! Is there going to be a shooting solution? Then, 'what do you need to do?' Will you be able to apprehend the guy? If so, then 'what do your need to do?' And all the while you don't want to screw up and make a mistake. Integrated training is real life!"

    Eppolito isn't the only one who see it that way either. Mosley says, "Integrated exercises such as this one give local and regional commanders the opportunity to accurately assess the readiness of naval installations."

    And Sansone probably sums it up most succinctly: "When it comes to integration it's not about who's better than who. It's about doing great training."

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 08.13.2009
    Date Posted: 08.13.2009 15:57
    Story ID: 37470
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