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A mock casualty, Cpl. Lee Sang-joon, is sprayed down as part of decontamination process during a biological attack exercise at the U.S. Army's Camp George in Taegu, South Korea, on Thursday.

A mock casualty, Cpl. Lee Sang-joon, is sprayed down as part of decontamination process during a biological attack exercise at the U.S. Army's Camp George in Taegu, South Korea, on Thursday. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)

During a mock biological attack exercise at Camp George in Taegu, South Korea, on Thursday, members of a hazardous materials team help "casualty" Pvt. Alicia Garcia to a decontamination area. Garcia is with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 36th Signal Battalion.

During a mock biological attack exercise at Camp George in Taegu, South Korea, on Thursday, members of a hazardous materials team help "casualty" Pvt. Alicia Garcia to a decontamination area. Garcia is with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 36th Signal Battalion. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)

During a biological attack exercise at the Army's Camp George in Taegu, South Korea, on Thursday, emergency response officials receive from a soldier a mock report that chemical agent tests indicate the area is no longer contaminated. The soldier's report was part of the exercise scenario. At left is Area IV fire chief Bob Purvis; James Adamski, center, is director of Area IV's Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobility and Security.

During a biological attack exercise at the Army's Camp George in Taegu, South Korea, on Thursday, emergency response officials receive from a soldier a mock report that chemical agent tests indicate the area is no longer contaminated. The soldier's report was part of the exercise scenario. At left is Area IV fire chief Bob Purvis; James Adamski, center, is director of Area IV's Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobility and Security. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)

The U.S. Army in lower South Korea plans to give ordinary support troops a broader role in helping emergency first-responders cope with biological warfare attacks.

The increased role for the soldiers comes out of a session held Friday at Camp Henry in Taegu, when Army officials took a close look at a biological attack exercise held the day before at nearby Camp George, a small post consisting mainly of a family housing area and the Taegu American School.

Thursday’s exercise simulated an attack in which terrorists released plague agent into the air. Under the training scenario, the usual first responders — fire, police and medical personnel — had to rush to the scene, detect the type of agent in the air, treat mock casualties and protect housing areas and other base residents from further harm.

On arrival at the scene, “it’s a big commotion. People run around trying to figure out where they need to be, but once you get your feet on the ground it’s just like your training. … You know what to do and ‘Okay. I’m here,’” said Spc. Jon Desrosiers, a nurse with Company D, 168th Medical Battalion at Camp Walker.

“And your head starts clicking — boom, boom, boom — and it all just comes together,” he said.

In addition to medical personnel, Thursday’s exercise included a “quick reaction force,” or QRF, of troops drawn from various logistical and administrative jobs, who in similar exercises have taken direction from military police to aid in securing the area.

Troops did the same Thursday, but also were given other tasks: informing housing area residents of the situation and directing them to safety, as they would in an actual attack, and taking soil samples to test whether a certain area was contaminated.

From Thursday’s exercise, “We learned that we can use the QRF in notifying personnel in the area. They used them as a biological detection team … so they’ve got many roles that they can play to assist the Area IV first-responders … containing the site and actually assisting us with some of our consequence-management plans to get the job done,” said James Adamski, director at the Area IV Support Activity’s Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.

“They haven’t been used that much in the past because we’re still determining the roles of all our key players, and they are a key player in an incident response to a terrorist attack.

“And we have learned … they can do many roles other than just assisting the MPs with security,” Adamski said. “We have another exercise later this year” that will involve a mock attack with a weapon of mass destruction.

“During that exercise we anticipate that they will also be called in just like this exercise,” he added.

The training, officials said, is also giving the troops — especially officers and sergeants — practice at something comparatively new for military units, but something that may become common practice in the era of the war on terrorism: taking direction from a police, fire or other civilian official acting as the on-scene commander.

“It’s just a new system that — not only the Army, but all the armed forces — they’re just not that acquainted with it yet, but they’re getting there,” said Area IV fire chief Bob Purvis, who served as on-scene commander for Thursday’s exercise.

“Who is the on-scene commander?” said Purvis. “They’re used to using the chain-of-command. They’re used to their direction and guidance in an emergency situation coming down through the ranks of their command. Well now, if it’s a non-war type incident on a base, chances are that on-scene commander is going to be a civilian,” Purvis noted.

2nd Lt. Victoria Somnuk is executive officer of Company D, 168th Medical Battalion, and the company’s Treatment Platoon leader.

Her unit’s medics played their usual role of treating casualties, but their training benefits lay partly in seeing how they fit in with the many other units responding, including the QRF troops.

“It was the first time we had to work with a lot of other units … to kind of put the big picture together,” said Somnuk. “There were a lot of different requests and demands while we were out there.

“Our medics,” Somnuk said, “were able to see that they’re a huge part of what would be needed in the case of this kind of situation occurring in real life.

“I think it was a huge motivation factor for them,” she added.


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