AUGUST 31, 2016, PERRY, Ga. – On the morning of Aug. 22, 2016, a nuclear bomb detonated near Houston. The explosion rendered massive damage to the infrastructure of the city including a complete shutdown of a highway leading to Houston forcing part of the city into isolation. This was a simulated detonation during a training exercise, in which Marines and sailors with Chemical Biological Incident Response Force deployed as part of an Initial Response Force as part of Exercise Scarlet Response 2016 at Guardian Centers in Perry, Ga., Aug. 22-26, 2016.
During Scarlet Response 2016, the unit participated in three days of section-specific training. Each element of the IRF responded to different scenarios under instructor supervision to simulate a real world event, all leading to a final 48-hour, non-stop simulated response to a nuclear detonation.
“Scarlet Response’s purpose was to give us a venue where we could utilize all of the IRF’s capabilities,” said Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Weiland, IRF B mission chief. “It allowed all of the sections to work hand in hand, allowing us to see what the IRF would look like if it were deployed in a real life scenario.”
The exercise improved CBIRF’s capability to respond to foreign and domestic large scale disasters.
The exercise engaged the alert command element, the forward command and control node supporting IRF operations down range, from the beginning to the end of the mission. The command and control aspect of any operation is essential to the success of the mission, according to Weiland.
“If the IRF needs something down range, whether it is intelligence or more water or [protective] suits, the [alert command element] can provide it while simultaneously reporting to higher headquarters everything that is going on,” said Weiland.
During Scarlet Response, CBIRF also worked alongside soldiers with 911th Technical Rescue Engineers Company stationed at Fort Belvoir, Va., training with technical rescue platoon Marines during lane training and the multi-hour simulated response exercise.
“I think is a great way to show that the services can work together,” said Army Staff Sgt. Michael Christensen with 911th Technical Rescue Engineers Company.
911th soldiers assisted the Marines in the final exercise, dividing the workload and allowing the IRF technical rescue platoon to develop a rest cycle.
The final exercise began with a mile-long highway blocked off by vehicles flipped over and simulated victims trapped inside located on the training grounds of Guardian Centers.
“The highway clearance mission we were given on the first night was a unique challenge that we have never executed before,” said Capt. Zachariah Dentes, Reaction Force Company executive officer and IRF B commander. “Instead of having a static zone to work with, we had to continuously move our elements forward down the long highway.”
Identification and detection platoon, was the first section to go into the contaminated area, also known as the “Hot Zone.”
The IDP geared up in level “B” protective equipment including sealed suits and a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, SCBA, to prevent from inhaling unknown agents. Technical rescue platoon and search and extraction platoon worked together to free the victims trapped inside vehicles using extrication and heavy machinery to work through the mangled vehicles.
The casualties coming out of the hot zone were transported to the decontamination area where ambulatory casualties were given instructions to wash themselves with special detergents to neutralize and decontaminate radiation exposure. Non-ambulatory victims were decontaminated by decontamination personnel. CBIRF’s Navy corpsmen were on standby to examine and treat every victim coming out of decontamination.
IRF B was able to incorporate two additional task forces to accomplish the mission. 911th Technical Rescue Engineers Company and Georgia Search and Rescue allowed for each task force to work 12 hours shifts and continue operations for the 48 hours of the exercise.
Exercise Scarlet Response ended with the IRF successfully clearing out 75-acres of town on the Guardian Centers’ training ground rescuing victims, clearing a mile-long highway of overturned and damaged vehicles.
“The [primary assessment] teams searched and cleared a total of 58 buildings in 95 plus degree heat in level b gear [sealed suits and SCBAs],” said Dentes. “Everyone was impressed with the Marines’ abilities to press on through the heat.”
The IRF also extracted victims from vehicles, using building support mechanisms for collapsed buildings to properly help trapped victims, decontaminating victims and providing medical care.
“The Marines at all levels did an excellent job,” said Weiland. “The motivation, dedication and work ethic was commented on by Georgia Search and Rescue, Guardian Centers’ staff and instructors with years of experience in the first responder’s field. We received nothing but positive feedback on how hard the Marines worked on this operation.”