Arctic Exercise Tests New Capabilities, Interoperability
by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Vonnida
March 5, 2022
Joint exercise Arctic Eagle-Patriot 22 brought together more than 900 Air and Army National Guard personnel from 15 states, more than 200 active-duty counterparts, Canadian military forces and civilian first responders in response to a two-week simulated large-scale natural disaster in the arctic environment of Anchorage, Alaska during February/March 2022.
AEP22 increases the National Guard's capacity to operate in austere, extreme cold-weather environments and enhances the ability of military and civilian inter-agency partners to respond to a variety of emergency and homeland security missions across Alaska and the Arctic region.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alexander Klosterman, weather forecaster, 123rd Contingency Response Group, Kentucky Air National Guard, leads a team in assembling a TMQ 53 Tactical Meteorological Observing System (TMOS) a mobile weather station, during Exercise Arctic Eagle-Patriot 22, in Nome, Alaska, Feb. 26, 2022. Joint Exercise Arctic Eagle-Patriot 2022 enhances the ability of military and civilian inter-agency partners to respond to a variety of emergency and homeland security missions across Alaska and the Arctic. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. LeAnne Ian Withrow)
Multiple agencies ranging from the U.S. Marine Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) to Canadian chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) elements, the 81st Civil Support Team, North Dakota National Guard, the 95th CBRN Company, U.S. Army Alaska, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and search and rescue K-9's gathered at the Anchorage Fire Training Center, a venue used to host part of the mock disaster.
"Our big focus here is if there was a hospital that collapsed, what kind of casualties we have and what rescue operations are needed," AEP22 Battle Captain for South Central Training Venue, U.S. Army Capt. Jacob Sommerfeld, North Dakota Army National Guard, 81st Civil Support Team, said. "Also, with regard to hazmat considerations for certain medical radioactive isotopes, the detection and or location of some of those hazards in a timely efficient fashion and how to handle them properly."
Interoperability exercises build understanding across military forces, civilian first responders, and domestic and international borders.
"One person may have a different piece of equipment and another person may read it a little bit differently," Sommerfield said. "We are just trying to cross-train and to capture some of the best practices from one unit to the next and to make sure that we are all communicating and supporting each other and learning from one another."
The exercise allows the participants to test new capabilities.
"We are testing dry decontamination," said U.S. Marine Sgt. Matthew Nalls, an assistant decontamination section leader, Company B, CBIRF. "Rather than using soap and water, we are using special vacuums and fiber tech wipes to wipe everybody down."
Decontamination techniques using moisture in freezing weather can cause a casualty more harm. Therefore, teams tested different situations and scenarios and researched implementing this new method of dry decontamination.
"They are the gathering data from the service members and people who are operating the decontamination equipment and the role players who are being decontaminated as well," Sommerfield said.
The exercise also utilized a helicopter to provide a live feed for monitoring troop movements and scanning areas to potentially be used to set up a new command post or a safe refugee for evacuees. A Stryker armored vehicle with CBRN detection equipment patrolled around the exercise area to notionally mark anything that was deemed hazardous.
Joint forces attend U.S. Stryker armored vehicle familiarization training during Joint Exercise Arctic Eagle-Patriot at Anchorage Alaska, Feb. 24, 2022. Joint Exercise Arctic Eagle-Patriot 2022 enhances the ability of military and civilian inter-agency partners to respond to a variety of emergency and homeland security missions across Alaska and the Arctic. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeff Rice)
"The M1135 Stryker variant has the capability to detect chemical, biological and radiological contamination and the capability to sample biological and chemical," U.S. Army Sgt. Christian Greg, team leader, 1st Platoon, 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 95th CBRN CO, said. "In a natural disaster or domestic response, we would be able to clear areas for medical evacuation, for shelter and for first responders to occupy."
Once the area was deemed clear, search and extraction dogs began combing the site to look for casualties.
According to U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Cates, exercise veterinarian, all FEMA disaster dogs coming up to Alaska are from the eastern United States, Florida to Massachusetts.
"One of our goals here was to evaluate the effects of the cold on their blood, their operation and the cold weather decontamination procedures," Cates said.
This was Somerfield's first time participating in the Arctic Eagle-Patriot exercise.
"For me, the most important and most rewarding part of this exercise has to be working with Canadians, Marines and the active duty," Sommerfield said. "Typically, we wouldn't have those kinds of opportunities in the National Guard, and as part of a big exercise like this, dual-status command, bringing all of us together has really allowed for some great experiences for myself and my troops."
"We have to realize that we are preparing for Alaska's worst day. We know that the potential for an earthquake is real, and there are a lot of people who call Alaska home."
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