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‘Vibrant Response’ tackles disaster

Email   Print   Share By Staff Sgt. Tomora Clark, 13th PAD
August 22, 2013 | Across DoD
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Soldiers with the 53rd CST, Indiana National Guard, Joint Force Headquarters Indiana, check their radio equipment before a route reconnaissance mission Aug. 12 at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Ind. The training at MUTC is part of Vibrant Response 13-2.
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An Indiana National Guardsman with the 53rd CST Soldier notifies civilian role players that help is on the way during a field training exercise at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Ind., Aug. 12. The MUTC uses role players along with other training aids to make the field exercise Vibrant Response 13-2 as realistic as possible. (Photos by Staff Sgt. Tomora Clark, 13th PAD)
MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. - It is not a scene one would wish to envision: an explosion in an American town, with the emergency response broadcast blaring a message of caution over loud speakers to concerned citizens affected by the blast.

Burning buildings, clothes scattered in every direction, debris blocking once passable roadways – all are merely a small portion of a nightmare scenario.

During the field training exercise Vibrant Response 13-2, or VR 13-2, which began Aug. 10 and concluded Friday, civil support teams train for the unexpected.

“The venues at MUTC, along with ability to use multiple smoke and flame effects, enhance the training and make it as real as it gets,” said Paul Condon, joint exercise planner, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army).

About 5,700 service members and civilians from the local, state and federal agencies flooded into the MUTC and Camp Atterbury training areas to train on responding to a catastrophic domestic incident. VR 13-2, a major field training exercise conducted by U.S. Northern Command and led by U.S. Army North, is designed to help all components respond to disasters in a timely manner as they provide assistance to the American people.

The MUTC is a 1,000-acre urban training site near Camp Atterbury, Ind., that specializes in real-world training scenarios. The training center is designed to add realism by simulating an actual American city in turmoil.

“The environment replicates an actual American town,” said Jay Norris, an observer controller/trainer division chief with Army North. “It has all the facilities of a typical small town, and that is the type of environment we’ll be operating in after a disaster strikes.

“The scenario is set in an American city where there has been a nuclear detonation, and these units are responding to that disaster,” he added.

“This (the MUTC) looks like the first episode of the TV series ‘The Walking Dead’ with all of the signs hanging, fires blazing and the appearance of absolute desertion,” said Sgt. Nicholas Erridge, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with the 51st Civil Support Team, Michigan National Guard, Joint Force Headquarters. “This is a unique, realistic training environment.”

Taking advantage of the unique training environment are the CST units, which have specific missions they train for in order to prepare them for a real-world, American catastrophe.

“The mission for our unit, during the training, is to assist the first responders by providing route reconnaissance, as well as setting up decontamination sites,” Erridge explained. “We would handle the CBRN incidents.”

The CST’s primary mission is to support the incident commander, as well as those first responders (local, state and federal) by establishing safe areas through route reconnaissance and determining where there are potential radiological and chemical hazards, said Maj. Ronald Crane, commander of the 53rd Civil Support Team, Indiana National Guard, Joint Force Headquarters Indiana.

“The civilian leadership is a critical part of our mission,” Crane said. “In fact, they are whom we are designed to work for. We work for the incident commander, so our ability to train with them is absolutely important to understanding of our roles.”

Role players helped provide a more realistic scenario by calling for assistance.

“While on recon mission, we ensure the citizens get the correct information on sheltering in place and know that help is on the way,” Crane said.

The civilian role players help provide a realistic feel to the training conducted at the center.

“Most of the time with military training exercises, we encounter dummies or we would have training aids to simulate the displaced citizens,” Erridge said, “but there is an added value when people play the role, realistic training.”

The psychological effects of seeing an actual person, as opposed to training aids, adds a level of difficultly appreciated on all levels of training.

“I believe this is the closest that we can get to a ‘real-life’ mission,”

Erridge said, “having civilian role players gives us a better opportunity to train as we would fight.“
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