Soldiers Train for Worst-Case Scenario


MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. -- Providing recovery and rescue in the aftermath of a 10-kiloton nuclear detonation in a major Midwestern city could be pretty traumatic. Fortunately, the "detonation" was just simulated, and is part of exercise Vibrant Response.

Members of First Army, based at Rock Island, Ill., are joining their comrades from U.S. Army North, based at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, for the exercise, conducted by U.S. Northern Command and led by Army North.

The Soldiers are training and mentoring more than 9,000 other servicemembers and civilian first-responders, July 26 to Aug. 13, in locations throughout southern Indiana and northern Kentucky.

Each Army command brings different strengths to the exercise.

"In First Army, we are trainers, first and foremost," said Col. John Dunleavy, commander, 205th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East. Dunleavy serves as the senior training mentor for a group of First Army observer controllers at Vibrant Response.

"That experience and skill set is important in the tasks we are conducting here to support Vibrant Response 13," said Dunleavy. "First Army pulls Soldiers from a vast number of fields, Soldiers who have a myriad of knowledge and experience that they bring with them. Their skills afford First Army the ability to offer the units we train the most up-to-date and relevant feedback."

Sgt. 1st Class Don Gandy, an observer controller with First Army from the 177th Armored Brigade, Camp Shelby, Miss., was working Aug. 2, with Soldiers out of Fort Polk, La., as they shored and braced a partially-collapsed parking garage, and cut into vehicles to rescue "survivors."

Gandy recently returned from Paktika province in Afghanistan; this had been his fifth deployment. He volunteered to serve as an observer controller at Army North's Vibrant Response 13 because he thought he might be able to share some of his experiences.

"I have been able to use what I know to train and mentor, but I am also learning," said Gandy. "Supporting civil authorities in a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response enterprise is a whole different ballgame from conducting operations in Afghanistan."

Soldiers from the 178th Engineer Company, 46th Engineer Battalion, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, conducted multiple missions at MUTC Aug. 2, to search underground tunnels, to rescue civilians from a collapsed building and to evacuate those in need of medical care to nearby medical facilities.

"I was a part of (the relief effort during) Hurricane Katrina, and to see the devastation makes you appreciate the training that these guys are doing," said Gandy.

Lt. Col. Melba Hernandez, an Army North coordinator to First Army's Operation Center for its observer controllers in the exercise, said her job has been easy because of the experience and professionalism of the seasoned trainers from First Army.

"I just make sure they're on track with all the missions and have coverage," said Hernandez. "It's been smooth, they know what they're doing."

The partnership between First Army and Army North benefits both units, said Dunleavy. "There is a great tradition in our Army of one Soldier sharpening another," he said. "This is just another example of that."

First Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, advises, assists and trains reserve component units during pre-mobilization periods; conducts mobilization, training support, readiness validation and deployment of alerted forces; executes demobilization of RC forces; and provides trained and ready forces in support of the Army Force Generation model. As directed, First Army provides training to joint, combined, interagency and active Army forces.

Army North (Fifth Army), commanded by Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV, provides military support to the nation's law enforcement agencies and supports the primary federal agency when conducting defense support to civil authorities. Army North also works closely with the Canadian, Mexican and Bahamas militaries in support of theater security cooperation to secure the land approaches to the homeland.

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