JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON –
In the morning hours of July 30, notional terrorists "detonated" two five-kiloton improvised nuclear devices in a major Midwestern city.
The simulated attack marked the kickoff of a large-scale catastrophic incident exercise, planned by military exercise specialists from U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), testing more than 5,500 service members and civilians in multiple training locations spread across central and southern Indiana.
Army North personnel made final preparations for the U.S. Northern Command-directed Vibrant Response 13-2 exercise as military members and civilians from various federal agencies descended upon various training areas in Indiana to respond in the event of a catastrophic domestic incident.
As Northern Command's Joint Force Land Component Command, one of the key missions for Army North is to coordinate the timely federal military response to disasters in the homeland to help the American people in a time of need.
One of the challenges in setting up this type of training event is the massive amount of coordination involved.
"We started planning this exercise as soon as last year's event was over," said Kevin Kirmse, a senior Army North exercise planner. "We have to coordinate equipment, contracts for role players, troop movements and training venues. We pretty much use all of southern Indiana to train in."
Army North has been coordinating Vibrant Response since 2008. Initially, it was much smaller in scale. Fortunately, Camp Atterbury and the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center contain abundant venues, space and assets to provide large, full-scale field training.
Along with the hospitality of the State of Indiana, the sites have proven to be ideal locations for conducting the national-level exercise.
"The State of Indiana has helped tremendously by providing us with the resources and personnel we need," said Kirmse. "The partnership between Army North and the Indiana National Guard shows how the state and federal governments can work together in a time of need. There is no other place in the country where you can run an exercise of this scale and level."
The importance of the exercise is to prepare the units and Soldiers identified to assume the nation's Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Enterprise mission.
"This exercise is important because the mission we are training for is different from every other mission we do as Soldiers," said Sgt. Maj. Christopher Frediani, the senior enlisted leader for Task Force 51, which serves as Army North's rapidly deployable contingency command post.
"We're training to assist local first responders help the American people in the event of a (chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear) incident here."
TF-51 is at VR13-2 as part of its annual certification requirements. Successful completion of the exercise is mandatory for units on, or about to assume, the CRE mission.