Sgt. Gary A. Witte, The Real McCoy Contributor
MCCOY — In the largest training exercise of its type in the
nation, more than 2,300 Army Reserve Soldiers helped civilian
authorities respond to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear
Spc. Edkin R. Garcia, a chemical
specialist with the 411th Chemical Company of Edison, N.J., role
plays an elderly contamination victim in an emergency drill at
the Waukesha (Wis.) Memorial Hospital. Spc. Shane D. Owen, a
medic with the 7235th Support Unit of Orlando, Fla., (in
protective gear), assists Garcia. (Photo
by Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte)
state and local officials have joined military personnel in "Red
Dragon," a simulation filled with life-threatening scenarios
spread across southern Wisconsin.
various points, the exercise involved more than a dozen hospitals and
hundreds of civilian participants — along with hundreds of simulated
of the Soldiers taking part belong to chemical units, which specialize
in such skills as decontamination and protection from weapons of mass
destruction and hazardous materials detection. The exercise allowed
them to place their skills into action on a large stage.
Gen. James T. Cook, who commands the 415th Chemical Brigade from
Greenville, S.C., said in an interview June 16 this marks a large step
up in operations, comparing it to a "crawl-walk-run"
process. "This year, it’s a sprint," he said.
previous years, the exercise was held almost exclusively at Fort
base still served as the center of operations, with units both
training here and travelling to cities as far away as Milwaukee.
Fort McCoy Fire Department, along with numerous other public safety
departments, also participated.
whose unit oversaw the two-week exercise, said one of the key goals is
to better assist — and integrate with — local emergency responders
if the Army is called in to help.
something ever happens on our homeland, we are trained … to deploy a
unit to help the civil authorities and the National Guard of that
state in event of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear
event," he said.
were a variety of worst-case simulated events conducted, including the
imagined detonation of a radioactive explosive at a crowded Milwaukee
and civilians worked together to protect and aid the public throughout
many cases, Soldiers acted the part of victims to help hospitals
practice dealing with the large volumes of injured patients.
exercise was part of the planned homeland security response to
catastrophes, whether natural or man-made, said Col. James Murphy, the
operation’s lead planner and commander of the 457th Chemical
Battalion from Greenville, S.C.
Dragon is becoming one of the most important exercises in the
Department of Defense," he said in a June 13 interview. "We
face numerous threats. Those threats are proliferating."
who has worked in civilian emergency services for more than two
decades, said the exercise will help the response speed of the units
and also will help the participating hospitals meet their own
variety of agencies participated in Red Dragon, including the FBI, the
Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, local police and fire departments, local hospitals,
local governments, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the U.S.
Reserve units spent a week of the exercise undergoing validation
testing, with Army officials monitoring their mastery of the needed
pointed out Citizen-Soldiers conduct their military duties in addition
to maintaining their civilian careers. He expressed his appreciation
for the families of those Soldiers who make it possible for them to
want to thank the families for sacrificing their time and allowing
them to do this profession," he said.
spoke June 15 to assemblies of the participating troops about the
importance of their mission and the skills they bring to the effort.
He noted chemical units were not the only Soldiers who participated in
come from several different disciplines," he said.
units, logistics, support, military police, chaplains and even Army
fire-fighters are taking part, he said. National Guard units will be
working with Reserve Soldiers without regard to different service
divisions, Cook said.
said Red Dragon gives troops the practice that allows them to conduct
their work as second nature and provides them a better communications
framework with civilians during a crisis.
able to speak the same language to help them out," he said.
(Witte is with the 300th
Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)