County, Military Respond to 'Emergencies'

County, Military Respond to 'Emergencies'

Emergency preparedness applies to more than terrorism.

A local version of "Black Hawk Down" occurred at Fort Belvoir this past Thursday. But, this time it was only a drill — with simulated casualties.

Named "Wounded Eagle," Fort Belvoir's 12th Aviation Battalion conducted an emergency response exercise that brought into play firefighters and EMS personnel from the base fire department, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department, DeWitt Community Army Hospital, military police, and soldiers stationed at Belvoir. The object was to find any kinks in a unified emergency response game plan.

Built around a scenario of a mid-air accident between two UH 60 Black Hawk helicopters loaded with troops, the incident called for the two choppers to force land on Belvoir's P2 Parade Field adjacent to Route 1 while a third helicopter radioed for help. This brought a host of rescue and medical personnel to the site to administer to the "wounded" and "dead" casualties as well as quench imaginary flames from the aircraft.

"The whole purpose of this exercise is to pull a variety of elements from Fort Belvoir and Fairfax County together to practice and be ready in case anything like this or any other incident should happen," said Lt. Col. James Brandon, commander, 12th Aviation Battalion, Davis Army Air Field, Washington Military District.

"The object is to find any weak spots during a drill so we are better prepared in case of an actual event," Brandon said. It also highlighted the fact that emergency response is not limited to terrorist incidents.

IN THIS SCENARIO one of the choppers lost a tail rotor while flying in a three-aircraft formation. That rotor struck a second chopper causing both to crash land with a number of casualties.

"Those severely injured were transported by another medevac helicopter to Inova Mount Vernon and Fairfax hospitals as well as the Washington Med Star burn unit," said Norman Sullivan, chief, Fort Belvoir Fire Department.

"Overall we had to deal with seven dead, seven walking wounded, and three minor injuries. They were to be handled by seven ambulances and medevac helicopters," Sullivan said.

First responders arrived at the site less than five minutes after the "crashes" were called in, according to CW4 Noel A. Shorts, safety officer, 12th Aviation Battalion. "The object is to put the maximum number of personnel on the ground to deal with this," he said.

"We have these joint exercises periodically. There will be an after-action review next week to examine areas where we can improve," Shorts said.

"With soldiers rotating in and out of assignments we need to do this. It allows us to test all the parts to make sure they come together properly and quickly," Brandon said.

AFTER "Wounded Eagle" came "Operation Guardian Angel," played out at the Defense Logistics Agency headquartered on Fort Belvoir. Under this scenario a distraught DLA employee shoots his wife, another DLA employee who he suspects of having an affair with her supervisor, wounds and kills several others and places a radiological explosive device in the building before committing suicide.

This called for not only treating the wounded but also evacuating the entire complex of its 4,000 plus personnel while locating the device. As part of this scenario, Fairfax County Police go to the perpetrator's home in the local community, find a note outlining his intentions along with a detailed diagram of the building with one red dot on it, indicating where he placed the "dirty bomb."

"The reason we do this is to keep our employees safe and make plans to deal with any threat situation," said Elia E. Studer, director, DLA Enterprise Support. "But, this is the first time we have ever attempted to evacuate the entire complex at once."

This drill had several "dead" and "wounded." There were also those contaminated by radiological material from the explosive device. This called for both firefighters and EMS personnel from Fort Belvoir Fire Department, as well as Military Police, to be involved in an array of activities from treating "wounded" workers to hosing down those "contaminated."

"It's also important that people know that we are doing this for the safety of the communities around us as well. If we do this right, and even finding our weak spots, it will be good for the whole community not just us," Studer said.

"IT ALSO WILL help our management team to know what to do in advance of any emergency incident. When a crisis occurs you don't what to have to think about your response," she said.

Headquartered at Fort Belvoir, DLA is the U.S. Department of Defense's largest combat support agency, providing worldwide logistics support to the military services as well as several civilian agencies and foreign nations. It supplies almost every consumable item America's military services need to operate, from groceries to jet fuel.

DLA provides support for both peacetime and wartime operations, as well as emergency relief and humanitarian missions. Since its creation in 1961, DLA has grown to a staff of more than 22,000 civilian and military personnel worldwide.