Yokosuka drill showcases reaction to chemical attack
June 6, 2008
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Two firefighters worked in the "hot zone," and two stood outside it, watching in case someone went down.
Sensors chirped, hoses sprayed and bodies were scrubbed as Yokosuka personnel mimicked a chemical weapons attack Wednesday afternoon for a U.S. and Japanese audience.
The scenario — a chlorine spill hatched by terrorists — showcased millions of dollars in new equipment and training focused on coping with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks.
"We need to be ready for the unthinkable, the unspeakable," said U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Krentz.
His personnel demonstrated a decontamination drill for about 60 people from the U.S.-Japan Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Working Group.
The group, established in 2006, started working together to prepare in case of an attack using weapons of mass destruction.
Japan has a history of these attacks. The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on two cities during World War II; a religious cult detonated sarin gas in Tokyo’s railways in 1995; and North Korea has postured with ballistic missile testing over the country’s northern island.
"We practice chemical and radiological attacks most often," said Lt. Cmdr. Alan Ross, an audiologist. "We tell our people that we have to be prepared as these things have happened here and very recently."
Visitors also witnessed "hot zone operations" where firefighters battled the poisoned area itself at Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan’s Regional Fire Department.
Much of the equipment showcased in the demonstration — new breathing apparatuses that purify carbon monoxide buildup, easier-to-wear protective suits — was bought through "Joint Project Manager, Guardian," a DOD initiative that allows military bases to "rapidly acquire" commercial systems and equipment geared to function in case of a terrorist attack using WMD, said Peter Novick, Yokosuka’s emergency management officer.
Worldwide, Guardian’s Installation Protection Program began with $91 million in 2005; by fiscal 2011, the program will run about $300 million for equipment, operation and maintenance at 200 military bases, according to the DOD Web site.
Yokosuka received about $3.5 million in equipment through the Installation Protection Program, Novick said. Equipment started arriving last year and more is on the way, including a community-wide speaker system, Novick said.
Other Navy bases in Japan will also see new equipment this year and next, Novick said.
"This has allowed us to ‘plus-up’ very rapidly," Novick said. "This is the best equipment we could find."