News: Atterbury-Muscatatuck provide the realism for Vibrant Response
Story by Staff Sgt. David Bruce
EDINBURGH, Ind. — Vibrant Response is a major field training exercise conducted by U.S. Northern Command and led by U.S. Army North. Approximately 9,000 service members and civilians from the military and other federal and state agencies throughout the country are training to respond to a catastrophic domestic incident. As a component of U.S. Northern Command, Army North coordinates timely federal military response to disasters in the homeland to help the American people in a time of need.
One of the challenges faced with an exercise of this magnitude is where to conduct said exercise. The training facilities of Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in southern Indiana provided the backdrop for a 10-kiloton nuclear detonation.
Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr, Commander of U.S. Northern Command, said he was impressed with not only the training facilities at Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck, but also with the surrounding community support for the exercise.
“What is offered here in central and south Indiana, the training venues of Atterbury and Muscatatuck cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the nation. It is the ideal place to train Department of Defense forces to respond to a disaster in America. The infrastructure the support provided by the Indiana National Guard plus the physical training site at Muscatatuck and the other venues are very realistic.”
Muscatatuck Urban Training Center is transformed during Vibrant Response to resemble a post-apocalyptic wasteland to challenge the assembled troops and first responders, while Camp Atterbury serves as the staging area and command and control.
“When you come to a training venue like this and you see all the contextual challenges that are portrayed here, the first thing that occurs to you is that this is a first-class operation,” said Jacoby, “but as everyone who has ever been at a catastrophic incident knows, it is all the distractions and the sights and sounds of an event that really challenge what may be simple individual tasks and makes them very difficult. This is truly a unique venue and all of the surrounding noise and sights and smells are really an important part of it.”
The presence of so many loud noises, and smells, and helicopters flying around and such are one of the reasons Jacoby was so impressed with the surrounding communities, as exercises of this size and scope always have an unavoidable effect on the surrounding area.
“This is way more than just Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck,” said Jacoby. “It is an entire community involvement across the southern half of the State of Indiana, and if you don’t have community buy-in, you can’t do something like this. I think that this is really a unique strength of America; the relationship between first-responders at the local level, the state, the Department of Defense, and then a community that really allows us to practice and hone our skills.”
According to Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, Adjutant General of Indiana, and commander of the Indiana National Guard, the Vibrant Response exercise validates the importance of Camp Atterbury, Muscatatuck and the National Guard, as a whole, to the nation.
“We continue to be very relevant for the demands of the nation,” said Umbarger. “The Department of Defense had to have someplace where they could train and do a collective event of this size where mass federal troops to roll into an area and train in an urban environment so we do not have another Katrina-like situation.”
Umbarger added that the unique nature of preparing for a catastrophic event requires a unique training venue.
“Where in this nation can you do something like this? Are you going to roll in to a major metropolitan city with all the aircraft and Soldiers on the ground? There’s no way. But Indiana had it with Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck. There’s no place in our nation to conduct an exercise like this but here.”
In addition to physical space requirements for Vibrant Response, the support rendered by the soldiers of the Indiana Army National Guard is a key component to the success of the exercise, said Lt. Col. Mark Curtin, Camp Atterbury installation transportation officer.
“We’ve hosted the Vibrant Response exercise six times now,” said Curtin. “We coordinate support for Army North for their transportation needs. We help them contract a building at Indianapolis International Airport for their chartered and cargo aircraft; we set up their bus contracts for transportation to and from the airport; and we also support through the Transportation Motor Pool. There are a lot moving pieces to an exercise of this size,” he said.
Curtin also credits the success to the culture of customer service at Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck.
“We have a can-do attitude to support customers,” he said. “This enables us to do a lot for them. It’s this positive attitude, flexibility and adaptability that keep them coming back.”
With an increased focus on preparing for catastrophe, Camp Atterbury, Muscatatuck and the Indiana National Guard will ensure that Vibrant Response will be a successful endeavor for years to come.