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Agencies assemble to train for emergency at Naval Base Ventura County

First responders at Naval Base Ventura County were joined by local firefighting agencies on Monday in a force protection exercise aimed at testing and improving base security.

ANTHONY PLASCENCIA/THE VENTURA COUNTY STAR (TNS)

By CHRISTIAN MARTINEZ | The Ventura County Star (Tribune News Service) | Published: February 5, 2018

A semitrailer pulls up to an entry gate to Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, yards away from where service members make their homes.

The driver does not cooperate with the U.S. Navy personnel at the gate, prompting the deployment of "final denial barriers" — large, backward ramps that protrude from the ground, making forward progress in a vehicle virtually impossible.

This was the beginning of a scenario Monday with about 100 personnel from various military, fire and police agencies who were training at the base. The exercise was part of an annual, nationwide training event named Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield, which focuses on naval base security also known as "force protection."

During the scenario, the personnel was investigating a substance leak from the vehicle and nearby Navy personnel became ill, displaying nausea, dizziness, difficulty breathing and other conditions.

A hazardous-materials response was launched to identify the substance, treat those affected and protect the base and its occupants.

Capt. Chris Janke, base commanding officer, said the operation combines "pieces and parts" of real-world events. In past years, exercises have included earthquakes, terrorist attacks and plane crashes.

"Security is our top priority for the people that live inside here and also to safeguard the missions that are inside the base," Janke said.

The scenarios are devised by Commander, Navy Installation Command, the agency that oversees the naval base and 70 other installations worldwide.

Janke also said the exercises play a crucial role in testing not only the responses of individual units from the base, such as the Federal Fire Department but also coordination with outside agencies such as the Ventura County Fire Department.

"We like to, just as (Ventura County fire does), get these scenarios where we can test our partnership," Janke said.

"Although we have a great team here and this equipment, it's not near the capability that the county has," he said.

Personnel from the U.S. Army and base police called Commander, Navy Region Southwest Police also engaged in the exercise.

For about three hours, in cloudy weather that eventually gave way to sunshine, fire, police and military agencies coordinated with each other to respond to the simulated emergency.

Roadways were blocked off, and two federal firefighters donned gas masks and hazardous-materials gear to examine the vehicle.

A semi had been parked at the entry gate for the occasion, occupied by a role player portraying the uncooperative driver.

Two hazmat responders from the U.S. Army also approached the truck dressed in full hazmat equipment: gas masks attached to air tanks and thick, dark clothing. Federal firefighters set up decontamination showers.

Janke said the exercise was an important event due to an infrequency of opportunities.

"We get limited numbers of times in a year where we do an integrated exercise," Janke said.

Multiagency training days are intensive, often taking months of planning and coordination and can disrupt the day-to-day operations of the naval base, the commander added.

"It is very complex. (There are) a lot of moving pieces," he said.

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Monday's exercise closed a base gate for several hours and caused some base residents to take detours to their destinations.

Janke said he had to learn the difference between overseeing base or installation versus deploying an operational unit "where you are ramping up for that deployment and you come back and have some downtime."

"There is no downtime for an installation," he said of the naval base. "It is year round, 24-hours a day that we have to be prepared for this type of thing."

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©2018 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)
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