Friday, January 30, 2015

Andersen, GovGuam test joint emergency response during island-wide exercise

by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wilson
36th Wing Public Affairs

1/30/2015 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam  -- Team Andersen members joined with emergency responders from the Government of Guam, Joint Region Marianas, Naval Base Guam and other government agencies to conduct a two-day exercise Jan. 27 through 28 across the island.

"This exercise was a deliberate move to integrate Andersen Air Force Base and all of the emergency response forces on the island," said Capt. Brian Slater, 36th Wing Inspector General Office director of inspections. "The exercise strengthened relationships among island first responders and removed assumptions between leadership chains."

The exercise, designated Sling Stone 15-1 for Andersen and Kontra I Piligru for GovGuam, tested the response and coordination of military-based teams from JRM and GovGuam. The exercise scenarios saw teams responding to an aircraft crash, active shooter events and a mock Ebola outbreak.

"The island has a Civil Support Team that focuses on responders to large-scale events, but they need local response teams to be involved with emergency situations in order to activate," said Master Sgt. Michael Wilson, 36th Wing Inspector General's Office. "By participating in an island-wide exercise, not only did we get the chance to exercise our own processes and procedures, we also were able to enable the local response teams to exercise as well. It was definitely a 'win-win.'"

For the aircraft crash, an Andersen-based U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron-25 MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter simulated a crash at the Andersen South training area in Yigo, Guam.  Yigo firefighters responded to the call and put out the fire on a burning training structure and responded to 15 Andersen role players with simulated injuries.

"It went extremely smooth," said John Thompson, Andersen Fire Department chief. "As far as we were concerned, it was a huge success."

Thompson noted he was given guidance from Brig. Gen. Andrew Toth, 36th Wing commander, to look for opportunities to train with the local fire department when he arrived several months ago. This exercise allowed him to do just that.

"It's best to meet and work together under these circumstances," he said, referring to the joint exercise. "You don't want to have to do it when lives are on the line."

Andersen responders also faced an active shooter simulation shortly after the helicopter crash that required a base-wide lockdown and required all Andersen workers, family members and visitors to participate while security forces Airmen tracked and eliminated the shooter threat.  The base also faced a mock Ebola outbreak scenario when a simulated patient arrived for an appointment describing Ebola symptoms that required the medical group to enact quarantine procedures.

"We thought it would be prudent to take advantage of an evaluation opportunity to work on scenarios with real-world impacts," Wilson said.  "This was a phenomenal opportunity to test the command and control architecture between JRM, Naval Base Guam, Andersen, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies."

A key objective for both the military and civilian planners was to overwhelm the command and control functions of the applicable response organizations and responders to identify where the breaking point was and if there were shortfalls that could be identified.

The next Kontra I Pilligru exercise is scheduled for 2017 and IG officials are optimistic for the continued participation of Andersen and local responders.

"[We] are extremely excited to participate in an effort to keep making things better," Slater said, noting that the previous exercise in 2013 had more limited federal participation and was mostly run by GovGuam forces. "If something were to happen, this training will prove to be invaluable."

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