Spc. Nevada Jack Smith
117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
HONOLULU — For more than a decade, America has waged a war on terror.
In an age where the threat of a terrorist attack has become an uncomfortable familiarity, Americans have had to learn and adapt to the real possibility of an attack.
With threats of a chemical, biological, radiological and or nuclear attack, the country has to be prepared for any possibility and that is why, for the last four years, Hawaii has hosted the Kai Malu O Hawaii, or KOH, exercise.
Kai Malu O Hawaii, which means “protected waters of Hawaii,” is the state’s premiere maritime event.
This year’s exercise, held April 23-25, brought Air and Army National Guard service members from seven civil support teams, or CSTs, together with the 71st Chemical Co., 728th Military Police Battalion, 8th MP Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Commnand, and federal, state and local first responders.
Together, they all participated in a massive, 36-hour operation that tested their skills and resources as they responded to several simulated terrorist attacks.
The seven CSTs participating in KOH 2012 included the 9th CST, California; 10th CST, Washington; 64th CST, New Mexico; 85th CST, Utah; 93rd CST, Hawaii; 94th CST Guam and the 103rd CST, Alaska.
“This is a great training opportunity. Most of the time we work with two or three CSTs, so seven in one location is unprecedented,” said Capt. Fernando Perez, operations officer, 9th CST, California Army National Guard.
“Dating back to 2008, every year we have come together as a community to train in this event,” said Ray Toves, exercise director, KOH 2012. “Each year, we escalate it to a different level of challenge, and this is the biggest challenge we have had so far. We have to identify our threats and train accordingly.”
This year, participants were faced with a scenario involving CBRN attacks from a national drug cartel.
“It’s not just one location, but eight different target sites within the island hitting the responders all at once,” Toves explained.
The exercise started with an attack on a mock drug enforcement conference held at Pier 19 in Honolulu Harbor. Civilian volunteers played the role of victims and the Honolulu Harbor Police acted as the first responders to the scene.
“This exercise brings better communication with all departments,” said Aaron Chu, Honolulu Harbor police officer. “It also helps the community feel better served when we do this training to stop, deter and react.”
First responders on scene have to quickly assess the situation, develop a plan and contact the proper support.
“Nobody can ever tell what is going to hit us with a terrorist threat,” Toves said, adding Hawaii relies on its waterways and harbors for 98 percent of its commercial trade. “We know that the harbors are the biggest threat to our economy. To neglect that fact is actually setting us up for failure, and that is why we train for the worst.”
Though the ultimate goal of KOH 2012 is to better train responders to react, one of the biggest parts of the exercise is overcoming its biggest obstacle: effective communication.
“Bad communications can disrupt any response,” Toves said. “During the past few years, (participants) have graduated to a higher level of expertise, but communication still remains the biggest obstacle, and that’s why this training is so important.
“At the end of any exercise, we look for lessons learned,” Toves continued. “Our ultimate goal is to make sure that every island, every county, has trained for a maritime attack, so that they can sustain themselves until more resources become available.”
Since Hawaii is separated from the mainland by thousands of miles of water, the state may seem vulnerable, but with constant training by its first responders, looks may be deceiving.