Exercise Konfitma 2012 challenges CSTs

| August 3, 2012 | 0 Comments

Lt. Col. Sean Wilson
196th Infantry Brigade, U.S. Army-Pacific

196th Inf. Bde.

196th Inf. Bde.

COMMONWEALTH OF THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS — The 196th Infantry Brigade, U.S. Army-Pacific, conducted Exercise Konfitma 2012, here, July 14-19, as simulated bombs detonated on Saipan and Tinian challenged first responders; civil support teams, or CSTs; and commonwealth officials.

The intent of the exercise was to provide realistic training for the 92nd, 93rd, and 94th CSTs from Nevada, Hawaii and Guam, respectively.

As part of a tiered response, the exercise provided realistic training to local police, fire and hazardous materials, or HAZMAT, teams. At the commonwealth level, the exercise provided a backdrop for the government to validate its newly created emergency response plans.

The exercise began with terrorist attacks occurring at the port of Saipan and a dissemination device activation on the neighbor island of Tinian. With U.S. Navy helicopter assets, the 93rd CST and first responders from Saipan executed a Joint Hazardous Assessment Team mission to locate, identify and mitigate two target sites, including a biological agent and a radiological dispersal device.

At the port, a fuel barge was bombed, and hazardous materials were discovered at the nearby fuel farm. The explosion resulted in the simulated release of fuel, necessitating containment and cleanup operations by the port authority and U.S. Coast Guard.

One hour into the exercise, a suspicious package was located at Saipan International Airport, which prompted airport authorities to shut down the main terminal, evacuate travelers and call in local HAZMAT teams to remove the package and identify any contamination.

All this activity quickly forced the commonwealth to stand up the Emergency Operations Center to become fully manned and operational.

Additional incidents at the Palms Hotel and nearby Fiesta Mall resulted in a running gun battle between Saipan’s Tactical Response Enforcement Team, or TRET, and terrorists, including a hostage rescue of three injured women who were kidnapped as part of simulated human trafficking.

The action resulted in several casualties on both sides and led to the discovery of laboratories producing simulated illicit drugs and irritant agents. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or CNMI, fire department had to execute a high angle rescue of a wounded police officer.

CST operations progressed through the first day and lasted well into the night as the three teams responded to a variety of simulated hazards. At a terrorist hideout on Capitol Hill, TRET took down the bad guys and discovered chemical and biological agents being manufactured; the 92nd CST responded and worked well into the early morning analyzing and mitigating the hazards. In Tanapag, intelligence gathered during the day led police and HAZMAT teams to respond to an abandoned garment factory, where they discovered high explosives being manufactured.

Just after midnight July 18, police raided an abandoned garment factory near Koblerville on the southern end of Saipan. There they discovered chemical and biological laboratories, which required the expertise of the CST. Initially the 94th CST responded to the site, but after six hours required relief.

The 93rd CST executed a relief in place and closed out the target site.

After the conclusion of the exercise, all agencies participated in a comprehensive after-action review, hosted by the 196th Inf. Bde., USARPAC, and the CNMI Office of Homeland Security.

Ray Toves, director, Weapons of Mass Destruction-CST Division, 196th Inf. Bde., USARPAC, stated the level of participation from the CNMI was outstanding, as the scope of the exercise expands to include more islands.

“It was impressive to see the level of commitment from the CNMI agencies for this exercise,” Toves said. “The more participation they provide, the better and more realistic the exercises become.”

The results of the exercise validated the CNMI’s emergency response plan, but also identified some areas in need of improvement, such as communications, information management and clarity in reporting.

As one Army officer noted, the real work begins (now), when agencies begin implementing necessary changes.

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Category: Exercises, News

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