Muscatatuck: not your ordinary military training environment (Part 2)

13th Public Affairs Detachment
Story by Staff Sgt. Tomora Nance

Date: 08.15.2013
Posted: 08.15.2013 14:51
News ID: 112038
Muscatatuck: not your ordinary military training environment

This article is the second in a three part series illustrating roles people play at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center:
Part 2 focuses on the military and training

MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. - In the aftermath of an explosion, the recovery process can be difficult. Civil Support Teams train to encounter the unexpected during field training exercise Vibrant Response 13-2 at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center Aug. 10-17.

Vibrant Response is 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 local, state and federal agencies are training to respond to a catastrophic domestic incident. This exercise is to help all components respond to disasters in a timely manner and provide assistance to the American people.

Driving through an American city after an explosion can be a devastating sight. Some cites at the MUTC are designed to simulate an actual American city in turmoil.

Rubble from collapsed buildings, trees impounding once recognizable cars, smoke from “burning gas” lines are all part of the visual imagery found during training.

“This (the MUTC) looks like the very first episode of the TV series ‘The Walking Dead’ with all of the signs hanging, fires blazing, and the appearance of absolute desertion,” said Sgt. Nicholas Erridge, a chemical, biological radiological and nuclear specialist from Portage, Ohio, with the 51st Civil Support Team, Michigan National Guard, Joint Force Headquarters, Battle Creek, Mich. “This is a unique, realistic training environment.”

The CST units have specific, similar missions that they train for in order to prepare them for a real-world, American catastrophe.

“The mission for our unit, during the training, is to assist the first responders by providing route reconnaissance as well as setting up decontamination sites. We would handle the CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives) incidents,” Erridge said.

“Our primary mission is to support the incident commander as well as those first responders (local, state and federal) by establishing safe areas through route reconnaissance, and determining where there are potential radiological and chemical hazards,” said Maj. Ronald Crane, commander of the 53rd Civil Support Team, Indiana National Guard, Joint Force Headquarters Indiana from Indianapolis. “The civilian leadership is a critical part of our mission; in fact, they are whom we are designed to work for."

“We work for the incident commander, so our ability to train with them is absolutely important to understanding of our roles,” Crane added.

Role players calling for assistance helped to propel the training toward a realistic view. They add the aspect of actual interaction with the U.S. populace during times of disaster relief efforts.

“While on recon mission, we ensure the citizens get the correct information on sheltering in place and know that help is on the way,” Crane said.

“The civilian role players give the training a realistic feel,” said Erridge. “Most of the time with military training exercises, we encounter dummies or we would have training aids to simulate the displaced citizens, but there is an added value when people play the role — realistic training.”

Crane added, the psychological effects of seeing an actual person versus training aids adds a level of difficultly that is appreciated on all levels of training.

“I believe, this is the closest that we can get to a ‘real life’ mission - having civilian role players gives us a better opportunity to ‘train as we would fight,'” Erridge said.

The training at MUTC provides unity and cohesion for personnel who have never worked together before.

“My unit is supported by the 51st CST, a National Guard unit from Michigan/Ohio,” said Staff Sgt. Dan’l Stebbins, a human resource specialist, who operates as a chemical, biological radiological and nuclear specialist in a tactical environment from Indianapolis, with the 53rd Civil Support Team, Indiana National Guard, Joint Force Headquarters Indiana. “Having the Michigan CST here, helps build our team and enforce stronger bonds between both units.”

“Right now (during training), we have a very unique situation for the civil support teams; we have a combined footprint, meaning the Indiana CST is working in conjunction with the Michigan CST to establish a base of operation,” Crane said.

Even working in a joint environment adds to the training conducted at the MUTC.

“It is a little easier when working with strictly Army personnel because they understand the terminology, but working together as a joint workforce brings an added value to the training,” Erridge said.

The MUTC focuses on providing realistic scenarios to train personnel for “real-world” situations.

“Muscatatuck provides an opportunity not just for the trainees but trainers, and is leading the way for other training sites to come up with good training through complexity and realistic environments,” Crane said.

“This is my first Vibrant Response training. It has been an awesome and memorable training experience,” Erridge added.