NEWS

Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD)
Trains for Mass Casualty Drill in Saipan

By Darrell D. Ames, JTF-HD Public Affairs


Saipan emergency responders during exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19.
Saipan emergency responders during exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19. (JTF-HD Photo)

“This training was about as close to the real thing as it gets,” said Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD) Assistant Chief of Operations, Army Lt. Col. Stanley Garcia. “I’ve never seen a quicker or more efficient response to multiple incidents,” he said.

Garcia was referring to exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19. As part of the on-going interoperability campaign in their Joint Operations Area (JOA), JTF-HD initiated a Phase 3 Interoperable No-Notice Mass Casualty Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) involving Field Training Exercises and the generation of a formal After Action Review (AAR) at the end of the event.

A house destroyed during exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19. A house destroyed during exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19. (JTF-HD Photo)

“This was an opportunity for the local stakeholders to link together and test their agency’s response plans,” said Mr. Mike Machado, JTF-HD Logistic Planner. “This is an island wide response to multiply staged incidents. This SMEE was done in coordination with JTF-HD, the 196th Infantry, the 93rd and 94th Civil Support Team (CST) units, Saipan Customs personnel, the United States Coast Guard, the Saipan Fire Hazardous Material unit, the Saipan Police Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit, the Saipan Swat unit, Saipan Port personnel, and the Saipan Hospital,” said Machado.

Multiple participants from at least 30 different agencies made for a very diverse and enthusiastic venue. The first response was designed to repel an infiltration of the harbor by terrorists, attempting to smuggle biohazards into the Island. Key participants were the port authority, as initial on-scene incident commander; the fire department, who, upon arrival, immediately assumed the on-scene incident commander role; and the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), who in turn notified the remainder of all supporting agencies.

A decontamination unit used during exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19.
A decontamination unit used during exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19. (JTF-HD Photo)

The following incident involved a Vehicle Improvised Explosive Device (VIED) which led to the collapse of a house, albeit staged, and multiple injuries. Saipan Police arrived at the scene, secured the area, and removed five victims for transport to the hospital. Arriving at the hospital the victims were not permitted entrance due to contamination. This scenario provided the hospital an opportunity to test their Mass Casualty Decontamination System (MCDS) by deploying a field hospital in support of the combined incidents and possible ensuing future attacks.

Representative of the 196th and JTF-HD served as the exercise planners and observer controllers. Emergency Response Training Institute (ERTI) personnel worked on scenario development and event simulation. JTF-HD’s Mr. James Cruz and Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Bart Robinson served in the Saipan EOC and were also used as exercise responders for the JTF-HD higher headquarters and JOA partnership. Mr. Machado, Army Master Sgt. Price, and Lt. Col. Garcia were also present as part of the JTF-HD contingent, acting as observer controllers for the mass casualty decontamination. “Our involvement was well received,” said Mr. Machado. “We were able to effectively observe the participants and successfully explain to them what they could expect during an actual emergency,” he said.

A decontamination team member during exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19. A decontamination team member during exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19. (JTF-HD Photo)

A local decontamination team was also able to conduct their own drill with interagency partners that included Saipan’s Fire Department, Police Department, and the Hospital. The decontamination team provided observers and controllers for the exercise and they provided internal reviews for the hospital and fire department. Garcia and Price were also responsible for moulage (the art of applying mock injuries for the purpose of training) and control of the victim actors. “Having realistic looking victims on scene is such a big part of the training,” said Price.

“One of our primary goals is to have the participants become familiar with the functionality of the National Incident Management System/Incident Command System (NIMS/ICS) structure,” said Mr. Cruz. On the spot Incident Command System (ICS) training was delivered by JTF-HD members as well. Mr. Cruz discussed the capabilities of the Department of Justice/Federal Bureau of Investigation Law Enforcement Online (LEO) and the ability to communicate across a variety of agencies (through local and foreign partners). The exercise was actually tracked on LEO, providing national recognition, credibility, and justification.

Mr. Mike Machado, JTF-HD Logistics Planner, during exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19.
Mr. Mike Machado, JTF-HD Logistics Planner, during exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19. (JTF-HD Photo)

“I highly recommend that a formal ICS training program be implemented throughout this region,” said Machado. “We are here to support and establish a baseline grassroots understanding of the ICS/NIMS system in order to develop national Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) compliant emergency operations plans,” he said.

“We feel that the primary field training exercise (FTX) Mesgnon was a huge success,” said Garcia. “The scenario was based on several man-made disasters occurring on the island of Saipan and was used to ensure all agencies and port authorities know what to do and how to use their Emergency Response Plans and stay active throughout the entire incident,” Garcia said.

Official documentation by the Department of Defense was deemed necessary as well as the entire exercise was videotaped and recorded by an Armed Forces Network video news crew based out of Yakota Air Force Base, Japan. “Our decontamination team was also featured in local news broadcasts and print articles,” said Mr. Machado. “We are definitely looking forward to future visits,” he said.

Army Lt. Col. Stanley Garcia, JTF-HD Assistant Operations Officer, during exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19.
Army Lt. Col. Stanley Garcia, JTF-HD Assistant Operations Officer, during exercise Mesgnon held in Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Marinas Islands June 14-19. (JTF-HD Photo)

JTF-HD, with its Defense Coordinating Element, is based at Fort Shafter, Hawaii and is designated as the Homeland Defense coordinating agency between the Department of Defense and the civilian authorities in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands as well as three foreign governments in the JOA to include the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. Working closely with Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and military organizations in the Pacific, JTF-HD maintains situational awareness, helps coordinate implementation of a comprehensive Critical Infrastructure Protection Program across the JOA, and when required, coordinates and provides DOD resources to help save lives and prevent great property damage.