Full-scale exercise — First responders, community partners synchronize

FORT CARSON, Colo. —More than 60 Soldiers took advantage of an opportunity to act out a dramatic part Sept. 25, 2019. As role-players in Fort Carson’s 2019 Full Scale Exercise (FSE), they applied simulated blood mélange before taking their positions throughout a wooded, barracks courtyard on post.

Once they heard the radio call for emergency service, the actors began shouting in horror and pain. Mere minutes later, squads of first responders descended on the courtyard.

Patrol officers with the 759th Military Police Battalion were first on the scene and quickly neutralized an armed assailant. Based on eye witness accounts from the Soldiers on scene, however, they determined a second gunman had taken a hostage and entered one of the barracks buildings.

As the Fort Carson Special Reaction Team (SRT) worked to subdue the second assailant, Fort Carson Fire Department personnel arrived on scene and began surveying the simulated carnage. Dozens had been injured, each to varying degrees. While some suffered head trauma, others endured gun-shot wounds to extremities. Still others suffered critical-level injuries that required immediate care.

Within minutes, the emergency responders had already moved critical patients to waiting ambulances. Some of the injured, it was determined, needed quicker transport to medical facilities, so they were transported to nearby Pershing Field for transport by helicopter.

“We wanted to include our partners outside the post because if a real-world incident were to occur, our emergency infrastructure might be overwhelmed by casualties,” said Danny Shepherd, exercise and plans specialist, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS). “We simply asked some of our community partners for their involvement, and they agreed to take part.”

So, while 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, MedEvac crews landed their UH-60 Black Hawks at Pershing Field to care for and transport exercise casualties, they did so alongside UC Health’s “Lifeline” helicopter MedEvac crews.

Ultimately, exercise planners revealed that the simulated event portrayed a mass shooting, featuring two shooters, 63 casualties and four deaths.

“This was a large-scale exercise,” Shepherd said. “Some of our casualties required care that our community health partners specialize in, so it made sense to send those casualties to the medical facilities that could most help them.”

In all, 21 on- and off-post organizations took part in the exercise, ranging from police and fire emergency response personnel to hospital, logistics, public works, housing area, religious support and explosive ordnance disposal personnel and facilities.

Fort Carson Directorate of Emergency Services even set up an incident command post near the emergency scene to direct resources and personnel.

The mass shooting portion of the exercise ultimately concluded when Fort Carson Criminal Investigation Division (CID) personnel negotiated with a gunman who had taken a hostage. When negotiations broke down (planned), the SRT team eliminated the suspect and rescued the hostage, who was also injured in the fracas. However, during their investigation, CID personnel learned that the suspect had stored an explosive device at his residence on post.

Accordingly, incident commanders deployed 71st Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams to render the device inactive.

Per Army regulation, Fort Carson must conduct a full-scale exercise annually. Accordingly, the Fort Carson DPTMS manages the planning and coordination of the exercise, and this year, handled the evaluation as well.

Following a full review with all organizations involved in the event, Shepherd and Charles Aucoin, installation emergency manager, DPTMS, will compile and write up the exercise’s After Action Review (AAR) for filing with U.S. Army Installation Management Command in a few weeks.

“We were encouraged by the results,” Aucoin said. “We learned a lot and the exercise showed us areas that we could improve upon. For instance, we could do a better job in the family reunification area. And, our messaging between participant organizations could improve.”

As this year’s FSE comes to a close, DPTMS planners have already started planning for Fort Carson’s 2020 full-scale exercise.

“We’re due to kick that exercise off on April 22, 2020,” said Shepherd. “It will be designed to present a limited nuclear threat to the post and require a wide-scale evacuation. Of course, it will include many of the on-post and community partner organizations like this one did.”

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