Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

The dining facility was filled with people. People from all over base who came to be trained, people who flew in for the week to be trainers, even local law-enforcement officers were present to observe the base’s response to the exercise. The day marked the culmination of a week’s worth of in-class lectures and table top exercises – and I got to sit in on it and witness the action first-hand.

Those in attendance spent the three days prior learning about a variety of domestic situations they could face inside and outside the fence. The simulations in class allowed for discussions on what each Airman should do when certain situations arise. They worked out the teamwork aspect as well as their individual roles for each scenario.

The training program this was a part of is called CAMR – Counter CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) All-Hazard Management Response, and its main purpose was to prepare our Airmen for events that could happen here – on base or in the states in general. Another one of its objectives was to evaluate installation and local response agencies abilities to select, use and operate personal protective equipment.

Tom Moffett of the Federal Resources Supply began the day with a safety briefing. He spoke about the importance of doing everything with intention, being sure to complete the tasks at hand with accuracy, patience and motivation.

He emphasized the significance of taking your time – working smarter, not harder to learn something that can be shared with those who couldn’t be present during the exercise. He spoke about how impressed he was with the training during the week, and how excited he was to see the Airmen put their knowledge to the test.

Following his morning briefing, the Airmen were sent back to their workstations to wait for the call. They had no clue what training they’d use during the exercise, but were prepared to take on any scenario brought their way.

Moffett was kind enough to let me tag along with him so I could be on the scene, camera in-hand, before the exercise started.

Smoke started rolling out of a building nearby – and at that moment, even before a call was made on the radio, we were in business!

First on the scene was the Truax Field Fire Department. Upon arrival they suited up and investigated the building as much as they could. After reviewing testing samples, they determined it was unsafe to proceed inside the building, but they were able to save a victim (aka manikin) that was lying next to the door.

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I kept myself inside the building (obviously it was an exercise so the smoke was really a smoke machine and completely safe) so I could see firsthand what each participant did as he/she did it.

After the second body was removed, the next group that came in was the HAZMAT team. They were suited up and brought with them a wagon full of tools. Upon entry, they identified the leak that was causing the smoke and began working to stop it.

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Every so often their suits would make strange beeping sounds and they’d have to jump or shake a bit to get them to stop. They were also on a time constraint – the air wasn’t clean, so they couldn’t remain in it for too long. They had to work quickly and efficiently.

They got out a huge contraption – I don’t even know how to describe it, but you can see it below.

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They hooked it all up and were almost done when they were told their time was up. Out they went – and before long a new crew was in to finish the job.

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Once the leak was sealed up, the exercise was complete – a job well-done all-around.

Exercises like this ensure that the response checklists we have created on base are well-coordinated prior to a real-world event.

This was only the fifth trip those training/inspecting had been on. They’re scheduled to complete a total of 21 sessions in 2015.

Everything they taught our Airmen will be put to the test throughout the next year, leading us up to our big inspection in 2016.

After this week, we have yet another claim to fame. Not only are our Airmen trained to deploy, they are also ready to protect the citizens of Wisconsin from any domestic situations that could arise! Go Guard!

About Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode

Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode is a photojournalist for the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin.