CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind -- Vibrant Response was a major field training exercise led by U.S. Army North held from July to August 2013 that brought service members from different branches together at Camp Atterbury, Ind., to practice responding to a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear incident.
Although the annual exercise is led by U.S. Army North, the Army component of U.S. Northern Command, other branches bring their own equipment and expertise to the fight. The Air Force was no exception.
The Air Force brought multiple assets, including the Joint Air Component Coordination Element, an Air Force Radiological Assessment Team, a Theater Epidemiological Team, a legal team and a human resource team.
Air Force Senior Airman Jesse A. Galgano, a radio frequency transmission technician with 51st Combat Communication Squadron, and Army Staff Sgt. Thaddeus M. Atchison, a senior transmission maintainer operator with B Company, 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, inspect a Phoenix satellite communications dish August 3, 2013 at Camp Atterbury, Ind. Vibrant Response is a training exercise simulating a nuclear attack within the U.S. in which service members from different branches participated. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Samuel Northrup, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
The JAACE helps the Army element communicate with Air Force North Command to get key assets for multiple disaster scenarios, not just CBRN operations.
For instance, last year AFNORTH supported Hurricane Sandy efforts with incident awareness and assessment imagery, which gave personnel awareness of what was happening during that storm.
Many of the Air Force's life-saving assets were applicable to the Vibrant Response training scenario.
“Typically for a real-world event, like the one this exercise is portraying, there would be C-130 Hercules aircraft that are capable of refueling helicopters in flight,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Porter, the Joint Air Component Coordination Element director. “We would have trained Air Force para-rescue teams that could conduct search and rescue, if necessary, and a combat communication squadron that can deploy radios, satellite dishes and phones.”
It's not just about the planes in the air, but also the airspace, Porter explained.
“There was time spent during the exercise on the air planning board to come up with an air control measure that would describe how everyone is going to take off and fly out of their airports into the restricted areas,” Porter said.
Along with the JACCE, the Theater Epidemiological Team was there to help with Vibrant Response.
“We will summarize what kind of exposure is going on and make sure the surgeons and commanders know what the risks are to personnel,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Darrin Ott, a bioenvironmental engineer with the TET. “We advise them on what the treatment options are, but more importantly we are looking into how other diseases may cause problems.”
The exposure scenarios were abundant for the TET in the Vibrant Response exercise with many issues dealing with the local population.
“In this training exercise there were some issues with some water reservoirs that have been contaminated,” said Ott. “With that scenario we are able to advise treatment options for water, [determine] whether or not people are able to drink that water and help identify other potential sources of water.”
Tainted water was not the only issue on the TET's mission. One of the biggest problems the TET faced during the exercise was the threat of radiological contamination from nuclear bombs.
“We have a team of five folks who come out and try to support the surgeons and medical operators who are dealing with the potential effects of radiation,” said Ott. “Based on the radiation exposure we can provide recommendations on how long people should stay on the ground.”
In addition to the JACCE and TET, the Air Force human resources were on Joint Operations Center floor.
Air Force Master Sgt. Nikole Messer, an Air Force personnel technician with 42nd Force Support Squadron at Maxwell AFB Alabama, explains the Air Force human resources aspect of the exercise includes accountability and reporting personnel numbers.
“We are doing multiple functions here,” said Messer. We are accounting for all Air Force personnel, Joint Task Force 51 members and augmenting the Army human resources side.”
Air Force personnel have been an important asset to Army human resources team during the exercise.
“We have been instructing them on what certain abbreviations mean and they are soaking it up like a sponge,” said Army Spc. Richard Fullan, a human resources specialist with 302nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. “They are very cooperative and very friendly. They are a pleasure to work with.”
Joint exercises are important for all services in understanding how each other works.
“If a natural disaster were to occur we don't have enough time to get to know each other,” said Messer. “That is why we have these exercises. When we go into an Army situation from here on out we know how to adapt so we can become a joint force.”
The teamwork and dedication to the mission created a more cohesive joint force during training exercise and real world mission.
“We always joke about the saying ‘one team, one fight,' but when you're in the field you have to rely on your fellow service members,” said Fullan. “We did that in Iraq, we did that in Afghanistan and we are doing it here.”
By U.S. Army Sgt. Samuel Northrup
Provided through DVIDS
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