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 July 09, 2010

Training

Red Dragon Stresses Homeland Security, Defense

By Sgt. 1st Class Darrin McDufford, 88th Regional Support Command

Bodies were strewn throughout the building as the Special Weapons and Tactics team pursued an assailant running through a local office building shooting down whoever crossed his path, while a lucky few remained unscathed as they cowered under their desks.

What would you do if you were faced with an active shooter who also has been suspected of releasing chemicals in the ventilation system? How about those around you, or, even more importantly, the law enforcement officials?

PHOTO: Participants in the Red Dragon exercise at Fort McCoy respond during a critical incident exercise. Contributed photo
Participants in the Red Dragon exercise at Fort McCoy respond during a critical incident exercise. The exercise helped test communication among responders, on-site incident management, public safety and security response.
Contributed photo

The Red Dragon exercise, an event stressing homeland security and defense, was held in late June at Fort McCoy and several other locations across the country to include a massive training event in a Chicago suburb.

The Chicago event involved nearly 600 people. More than 100 Soldiers, about 200 emergency responders and nearly 300 others participated in support roles and as actors for the training exercise that pulled many resources together to counter a chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) disaster scenario.

Throughout the 10 years Red Dragon has taken place, it has grown and focused on the changes in technology and available information.

About 2,700 Soldiers participated in the 2010 exercise in five states including Alabama, Illinois, South Carolina, Georgia and Wisconsin.

Red Dragon’s main objective is to help the civilian communities realize federal assets are available to help.

These units pulled resources collectively on how to treat casualties, conduct reconnaissance and decontaminate people.

“Training is the bedrock of success for our Soldiers, who are a part of the communities they serve. Their military prowess is enhanced by skills they use in their everyday jobs,” said Brig. Gen. Bert K. Mizusawa, exercise director and deputy commanding general of the 335th Signal Command.

PHOTO: Red Dragon exercise participants conduct triage and pre-hospital medical treatment during a critical incident exercise at Fort McCoy. Contributed photo
Red Dragon exercise participants conduct triage and pre-hospital medical treatment during a critical incident exercise at Fort McCoy. The training also addressed hazardous materials response and decontamination procedures.
Contributed photo

“This exercise helped improve their role in providing seamless support to operations by federal, state and local authorities during an emergency response to a large-scale CBRNE disaster,” he said.

This year’s Red Dragon scenario was chosen, in part, to represent a possible realistic situation that could occur. Its goal was to give Soldiers a significant representation of what they could face.

Should this situation occur the military would need to respond within 24-48 hours. Local responders would have to react much more quickly but they can feel confident that others have their back to fill in to assist in a mass-casualty situation, Mizusawa said.

Participants who portrayed victims may have seen themselves as just actors but they experienced what possibly could happen and saw, firsthand, the rapid response available to assist the local authorities.

“Civilian first-responders don’t have the numbers to support this. This is labor-intensive and expensive,” said Sgt. Maj. Robert L. Mihelic of the 415th Chemical Brigade. “This exercise stresses the importance of the relationship between civilian and military assets.”

“The exercise goal is to pull together the HAZMAT (hazard material) recon(naissance), mass casualty and decon(tamination) skills so we can better support the civilian first- responders,” Mihelic stressed as the overall objective of this exercise.

Four units participated locally in Red Dragon, and included the 366th Military Police Company, 411th Chemical Company, 405th Casualty Support Hospital and the 479th Chemical Brigade.

Spc. Christopher Velez, who has been in the Army for one year and also is a retired New York City police officer with experience in a chemical biological training section, said, “If something like this was to happen, some type of radiologic release, the civilian teams might be hesitant. A key aspect is that the Army Reserve, National Guard, active Army, all the military forces train for this to provide support. We’re here to help. This is a key element because not everyone can afford to have a hazardous materials team.”

Mizusawa concluded, “The Army Reserve is recognized as America’s premier reservoir of shared military-civilian skills and has capabilities that support and defend the nation.”

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