OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (8/18/2012) - Under a dark and
swollen early morning sky, leaders of Joint Task Force 71,
Texas Army National Guard, walked the grounds of the
Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum as part of a two
day staff ride designed to offer valuable insight into the
tactics, techniques and procedures employed by the first
responders of the time.2
With its reflecting pools, fresh
cut grass, and straight, clean-lined structures, the
memorial was designed to be a place of peace and reflection.
Yet, for the men and women of JTF-71, it also stood as a
powerful and sobering reminder of the current threat of
Members of the Texas National Guard's Joint Task Force 71
visited the Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum Aug. 18, 2012, in
order to discuss and witness the lessons learned during the attack
of April 19, 1995. This staff visit is part of the task force's
curriculum of knowledge to better deploy as the homeland response
force for FEMA Region. Photo by Army Capt. Adam Musil
"A staff ride is designed to bring to life historic
encounters at the same place and terrain where an incident
took place," said Col. Lee Schnell, commander for JTF-71.
"Visiting the Oklahoma City bombing site provides our
service-members and leaders with the unique opportunity to
learn from this terrible attack and think about how our
homeland response force would react if a situation like this
Responding to attacks and incidents
is nothing new to the members of this Texas National Guard
force, many of whom are veterans of the wars in Iraqi and
Afghanistan. However, responding to a domestic attack
presents a different set of challenges. When an incident
occurs stateside, the Texas National Guard homeland response
force is just one of many resources that may be called to
the scene. Other agencies on the scene include the police
forces and fire departments, both of which responded to the
attack in Oklahoma City. One of those men was Mike Shannon,
who at the time of the attack, served as the special
operations chief of the Oklahoma City Fire department.
Shannon met with the service members and discussed some of
the challenges he faced during the disaster.
never know what to expect when you arrive on the scene,"
Shannon said. "The best you can do is remember your
training, be flexible, be logical, and be practical."
Amy Downs was one of the many victims who benefited from
Mr. Shannon's steady hand and solid leadership that day. Amy
worked at a credit union on the third floor of a building
adjacent to the blast site.
"After the explosion it
felt like I was shot in the back of the head," Downs said.
"I went unconscious and when I came to I was on the first
floor of the building and trapped under rubble. I started to
yell like a child until the firefighters found me. Their way
of reassuring me was to say they would 'try to get me out'.
I told them afterwards next time they need to lie better."
What the firefighters lacked in bedside manner,
Downs said they made up for in professionalism. After her
rescue, Downs visited the firefighters with a plate full of
"I feel so blessed to be alive today," Downs
said. “From this experience I have learned that it's not
what happens to us, but how we respond to it. You only have
one life and you have to live it."
members toured the facility, many were visibly unnerved by
the museum, some having to step away and collect themselves.
Capt. Mitch Fuller, a resident of Oklahoma City at the time
of the bombing, was directly affected by the attack.
was born in Oklahoma City," said Fuller, "in a hospital a
few blocks from Ground Zero and have lived most of my life
in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. I was 50 miles away
from Ground Zero on April 19, 1995. I know two survivors and
served in the Army Reserves with one of them. I am glad to
be part of a team that has the ability to directly respond
to an event such as the Oklahoma City Bombing."
the 17 years since the Oklahoma City bombing the Department
of Defense has established the Department of Homeland
Security, in large part due to the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks, and has established 10 National Guard-sourced
homeland response forces. These units are regionally located
and focus on biological, radiological, nuclear, and high
explosive consequence response forces. In short, these units
are designed to respond tactically and efficiently in the
event of another domestic terror event. For Col. Schnell, he
believes with proper training and education his team will be
up to the challenge.
“I know this staff ride has
affected a lot of our service members and I hope they take
what they have learned this weekend and share with their
subordinates and leadership. Much like the minutemen from
whom we take our name, our team must always be prepared and
have our go bags ready and respond at a moment's notice.”
By Army Capt. Adam Musil
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