NEWS

Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD)
provides key training and instruction
during Guam exercise Mane’ Lu

By Darrell D. Ames, JTF-HD Public Affairs


Guam emergency responders prepare to transfer a suspected terrorist, wounded in a simulated plane crash, during exercise Mane' Lu held in Guam Jan 3-16. Guam emergency responders prepare to transfer a suspected terrorist, wounded in a simulated plane crash, during exercise Mane' Lu held in Guam Jan 3-16. (JTF-HD Photo by Darrell D. Ames)

Phrases like "SWAT team take down," "terrorist intelligence center," "mass casualties in a crowded area," and "the transport of questionable cargo to a covert location" might lead some to believe the phrases describe a new John Grisham novel or the latest James Bond film. In this case they are phrases uttered during a combined law enforcement and emergency response exercise, Mane’Lu recently held in Guam and spearheaded by Joint Task Force – Homeland Defense (JTF-HD), Hawaii.

Local and federal agencies, Guam Homeland Security and the Office of Civil Defense (GHS/OCD), the Guam National Guard’s 94th Civil Support Team (CST), and the Alaska National Guard’s 103rd CST participated in the interagency Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive (CBRNE) Field Training Exercise (FTX). The entire event, which included the planning conference, exercise, and after action meetings, ran from January 3-16 and, according to exercise director Ray Toves from the Army's 196th Infantry Brigade, was an overall success.

"The exercise provided an opportunity for participating agencies to work together toward the mutually beneficial goal of timely and effective information sharing in a dynamic operational environment in order to continually improve the communication process," Toves said.

The three-day exercise was designed around conditions to reinforce interoperability among local and federal stakeholders. It stressed interagency collaboration, tested a multi-CST response, and challenged all to maintain operational procedures during an incident of national significance.

A Guam Police Department SWAT team member has the draw on a suspected terrorist during the simulated takedown of a terrorist cell
during exercise Mane' Lu held in Guam Jan 3-16. A Guam Police Department SWAT team member has the draw on a suspected terrorist during the simulated takedown of a terrorist cell during exercise Mane' Lu held in Guam Jan 3-16. (JTF-HD Photo by Darrell D. Ames)

The exercise itself started with a joint FBI and Guam Police Department SWAT team "taking down" the designated terrorist intelligence center. This was followed by the simulated arrests of three suspected terrorists by the FBI as an attempted transfer of questionable cargo was made to a small boat waiting off-shore. Next on the agenda was the simulated crash of a private airplane at the Guam airport. The plane’s three occupants, also suspected terrorists, suffered simulated critical injuries while some containers they were carrying onboard the plane were damaged. The simulated leak of chemical gas in these containers drifted to a nearby theater where dozens of matinee movie goers were contaminated and became ill, rushing out of the theater as emergency responders rushed to the scene. Firefighters and paramedics assessed the status of the simulated sick and dead.

"Every evolution in the exercise was aimed at testing the preparedness of local and federal agencies in the face of a disaster involving weapons of mass destruction," Ed Peterson, Seattle-based Emergency Response Training Institute (ERTI) instructor said. "The authenticity of the scenarios and associated response operations provided the command and control structure of participating agencies with a rare opportunity to exercise and validate both internal and external communication and information sharing," Peterson said.

Guam emergency response personnel deal with casualties at the Gate Theatre during exercise Mane' Lu held in Guam Jan 3-16. Guam emergency response personnel deal with casualties at the Gate Theatre during exercise Mane' Lu held in Guam Jan 3-16. (JTF-HD Photo by Darrell D. Ames)

"The goal of the simulation was to test the coordinated response among different agencies, and to identify gaps in response time, communication and collective participation of multiple agencies," Toves said.

Local residents were advised to be aware of simulated explosions and the sudden increase of response vehicles and personnel. "We wanted the local populace to be aware of what we were doing," Lesley Leon Guerrero, spokeswoman for Guam Homeland Security Office said. "The exercise had been in the planning stages since November and involved approximately 100 emergency response personnel," she said.

"This exercise represented a kind of worst-case scenario for Guam, which has a strategic importance as both home to a large population of military personnel and as the first line of defense for our area of responsibility for the United States," Mike Machado, JTF-HD Logistics Planner said. "This was a perfect opportunity for us to realize our challenges and our weaknesses and correct them before something happens in the real world," said Leon Guerrero. Guam Homeland Security activated an emergency operations center and joint information center to channel all communications throughout the disaster scenario.

"It was an educational process for everyone," said Alan Perez, exercise coordinator from the Army’s 196th. "When people are caught in this situation in real time they will know how to deal with it and who to look to for help," he said.

"Everyone did a great job," Army Master Sgt. Paul Price, JTF-HD operations non-commissioned officer said. "The firefighters were very knowledgeable, the police were outstanding, the decontamination crews were on top of their duties, and the paramedics were very thorough," Price said. Homeland Defense against a wide range of asymmetric threats to include; terrorists, cyber attacks, and transnational criminal organizations, requires a coordinated Federal and Department of Defense (DoD) effort. Throughout the Pacific, from Hawaii to Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, JTF-HD plays a number of Homeland security roles.

The Commander of US Pacific Command at Camp Smith, Hawaii, designated JTF-HD as the Homeland Defense coordinating agency between DoD and the civilian authorities in the Hawaii, Guam and the other local governments. Working closely with Department of Homeland Security and the military organizations in the Pacific, JTF-HD develops a Common Operating Picture and coordinates implementation of a comprehensive Critical Infrastructure Program.