Photo Information

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. -Emergency workers instruct Marines before they go through a decontamination tent during the North Carolina Regional Exercise 2005 April 9 after coming under attack from a simulated chemical weapons attack. The exercise was a chance for emergency services and base commanders to test and evaluate their responses to terrorist attacks. This exercise fulfills Department of Defense requirements for annual terrorist training and has been deemed a success by all involved, according to Col. Neil Hornung, deputy branch head of the critical infrastructure branch. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shane Suzuki)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Shane Suzuki

Exercise prepares bases for terrorism attacks

11 Apr 2005 | Lance Cpl. Shane Suzuki

As part of a Department of Defense initiative to increase readiness for terrorist attacks on military and civilian targets, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and New River air station took part in the North Carolina Regional Exercise 2005 April 9.

The exercise, which was divided into two different scenarios, tested the base’s emergency and communication systems during a mock terrorist attack. Both simulated attacks took place at New River air station, one on the fields behind the student barracks, and the other by the McCutcheon Field hangars.

According to Col. Neil Hornung, deputy branch head of the critical infrastructure branch, the purpose of the exercise was to test the operational readiness of Camp Lejeune and New River to respond to a weapons-of-mass-destruction event.

“The exercise meets several requirements under the Department of Defense,” he said. “This exercise is the first attempt at a larger regional approach by combining Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune and New River.”

Many different military and civilian units were called upon for the readiness test including law enforcement, explosive ordinance disposal, fire department, medical, command/control, public affairs, U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security.

A simulated chemical attack on a group of exercising Marines kicked off the day’s events when a crop duster carrying a dangerous, and perhaps deadly, pesticide sprayed a group of exercising Marines, leaving them dazed, sick and sometimes unconscious. The next stage of the simulation was the plane losing control and crashing.

“The bases did well with respect to the actions taken by the first responders and their actions taken during the actual incident,” he said. “The Marine Corps has made a significant investment in the equipment and training of our Hazardous Materials Teams. We have provided personnel and equipment decontamination equipment at the base level to address a majority of Chemical, Biological and Radiological threats. We feel the money put toward these programs has been well spent.”

Marines from Camp Johnson were used as role-players during the exercise and were told beforehand what kind of injuries they would be acting out and if they would listen to emergency crews. Many of the actors were told to disregard instructions from the emergency workers and try to break free of the quarantined area to look for help. This way they could test the first-responders ability to control an emergency situation.

“The participants identified specific areas in which they needed improvement,” he said. “We have taken those lessons learned and will incorporate those changes into improvements in either their equipment, training or procedures.”

Meanwhile, across the base, New River firefighters were busy taking care of a burning plane-wreck. According to the schedule of events, after the plane dropped its chemical payload on the training Marines, it would crash into a hangar on the other side of the base. An MV-22 Ospry shell was lit on fire so the firefighters could practice their crash-site procedures.

At approximately 3 p.m., the exercise ended and the evaluators and supervisors held a brief to discuss what went well and what needed to be worked on to improve terrorism response.

“Headquarters Marine Corps works with the installations to ensure all of the Marine Corps installations, bases and stations conduct annual AT exercises,” said Hornung. “The first responders at Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune and New River can be very proud of their performance and their accomplishments. Overall Camp Lejeune, New River and Cherry Point put forth a tremendous effort and are well prepared to deal with any unexpected situation which they may encounter.”