Exercise tests APG responders, leaders

APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor is flanked by his directors as he updates members of the mock media after the APG full-scale exercise at the Ground Floor office in Havre de Grace Aug. 17, 2017. | Photo by Yvonne Johnson, APG News
  • Aberdeen Proving Ground emergency responders, directors and post leaders were put to the test during a mock emergency exercise centered at APG South (Edgewood) Aug. 17, 2017. The consolidated exercise combined APG full-scale exercise, or FSE, requirements with the Chemical Accident or Incident Response and Assistance, or CAIRA, exercise requirements of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, MRICD, where the mock incident was centered.

    The active shooter scenario involved a government employee grabbing a vial of VX and shooting four coworkers before exiting the building. The installation response and special emphasis, which was observed and graded by evaluators from local and regional organizations, focused on the recapture and recovery of the chemical agent and the response to the active shooter.

    APG Special Reaction Team police officers apprehend the alleged shooter as Evaluator Jim Toscano of the Directorate of Emergency Services, right, looks on during the full-scale exercise at APG South (Edgewood) Aug. 17, 2017. |Photo by Yvonne Johnson, APG News

    Throughout the day Directorate of Emergency Services police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians responded to calls for help.  Events unfolded at a MRICD building on APG South. Members of the DES Special Reaction Team entered the building with weapons – plastic replicas of automatic firearms – drawn seeking to engage the shooter who had already escaped to a nearby parking lot. Some SRT members removed ‘injured’ casualties from the area to medical personnel who were waiting near the command post which was set up nearby while others pursued the gunman. MRICD personnel employees played the roles of the perpetrator and the injured.

    At the conclusion of the exercise, a mock press conference was held off post at the Harford County Office of Economic Development’s Ground Floor headquarters. The location was chosen, organizers said, to add a sense of realism to the event. APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor hosted the event which was attended by more than one dozen members of ‘the media’ – actually public affairs personnel from APG organizations

    APG Chief of Police Joel Holdford directs activities as CID special agents Daniel Valencia, left, and Kyler Geddes listen at the command post set up near the incident during the APG full-scale exercise at APG South (Edgewood) Aug. 17, 2017. | Photo by Yvonne Johnson, APG News

    Rick Scavetta, Garrison community relations officer welcomed reporters and distributed press releases and Kelly Luster, Garrison Director of Communications offered a brief synopsis of the day’s events before Taylor took the podium.

    Media members relentlessly peppered Taylor with questions to give him a taste of the intense scrutiny that accompanies high profile incidents.

    Taylor said he was impressed with the performance of all participants, particularly the responders who are required to train and maintain to a specified level of readiness and are tested and critiqued in after-action evaluations annually.  He particularly appreciated the media members who gave him a hard time, he said.

    “They performed great,” he said. “We still learned some lessons and that’s why we do this.”

    Col. Margery Hanfelt, MRICD commander, added that the value of periodic exercises cannot be overstated.

    “We want to know where we are not meeting standards,” she said. “The whole purpose is to make sure we can ensure the safety of our employees, our installation and the surrounding community.”

    “This exercise tested the capabilities of our emergency responders, and they did very well,” added Public Affairs representative Heather Roelker “We have no concerns whatsoever about our safety at Aberdeen Proving Ground.”