WMD exercise aims to make response second nature
Stars and Stripes June 1, 2003
BABENHAUSEN, Germany — The caserne here was the scene of a weapons of mass destruction exercise Saturday that tested the skills of military and German first-reaction teams.
The exercise taught 233rd Base Support Battalion officials what initial measures need to be taken in the event of an attack, who needs to be called, when they need to be called, and how to administer aid to those who may need it.
In the exercise, a suspected suicide terrorist crash-landed a glider onto the Babenhausen flight line, spilling a white substance before impact. Four soldiers saw the accident and rushed to help, but instead started feeling symptoms of nerve agent poisoning.
German firefighters took control of the situation by decontaminating suspected chemicals, the soldiers and ensuring chemical agents weren’t further spread through the air.
“It’s important to always be ready because a situation could arise at any time. You have to know what to do and know your job. You can’t panic because lives are at stake,” said Pvt. Sandra Ornelas of the 578th Signal Company, 440th Signal Battalion, who participated in the exercise.
Ornelas acted as the suicide attacker and played dead for the majority of the exercise. She said not only are these types of training missions good for force protection, but they’re also fun.
In the scenario, BSB officials had to decide what to do with the civilians on post. Possible evacuations were considered in addition to the already closed gates, German soldiers manning every street and walk entrance into the suspected contaminated area, and emergency response teams.
Lt. Col. L.J. Strife, commander of the 233rd BSB, said one major lesson the exercise taught was that if such a scenario actually happened, it would be important for all soldiers to have their protective masks available to them.
“The exercise went well,” she said. “We learned a lot.”
Strife said the main reason exercises are important is because it teaches soldiers and response teams how to react to any situation as if it were second nature.
By going through the routine, everyone will know how to get places, have numbers to call on hand, and won’t be wondering where to set up decontamination areas.