Wyoming Air Guard participates in exercise to evaluate crisis response

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Charles Delano
  • 153rd Airlift Wing

Saturday, members of the 153rd Airlift Wing participated in a tabletop exercise, which tested the capabilities of the Crisis Action Team, Emergency Operations Center and Unit Control Centers. The Inspector General for Inspection, Lt. Col. T. J. Gagnon, led the effort by providing three distinct scenarios that became increasingly more difficult.

“The dedicated team of exercise planners, Wing Inspection Team, Inspector General staff and the participants worked together to make this a highly effective exercise and a great learning experience,” said Gagnon. “The three phases of the exercise were designed to gradually develop an understanding of roles and responsibilities to seeing how key functions interface and finally applying what they learned.”

The focus of the tabletop exercise was to provide an opportunity for units to evaluate the effectiveness of their specific crisis response procedures. Participants were tasked to identify areas of needed improvement to ensure the wing could validate its ability to respond to a variety of scenarios.

The first scenario of the exercise involved an infectious outbreak of influenza which affected members of operations and maintenance. Group commanders identified trigger points and trends that would alert wing leadership of a possible crisis. 

Community public health partners and the medical group discussed communication strategies to employ during times when mission resources are degraded. As the first scenario of a crawl-walk-run strategy, Gagnon helped guide the communication and actions of the CAT and EOC. 

The second scenario began with a lightning warning and concluded with a tornado. This scenario tested the ability of the EOCs Emergency Support Functions to interface with the individual units and incident command. The resulting destruction of aircraft and structures challenged the units to communicate relevant information to EOC while ensuring personnel accountability and safety.

Col. Michelle Mulberry, 153rd Mission Support Group commander and EOC director was evaluated on how she supported the incident commander while maintaining two-way communication with the wing commander. Senior Master Sgt. Mike Kellebrew, the scenario incident commander, assessed the first response procedures for keeping buildings and personnel safe.

The widespread damage of buildings, power outages and degraded cell phone and computer connectivity challenged the teams with establishing reliable communications. Master Sgt. John Rode, Communications Flight plans and programs manager assisted team members with establishing connectivity.

“There were more participants than I expected,” said Rode. “I enjoyed the camaraderie and being able to do my job in an exercise environment.”

The third scenario was designed to apply strategies learned from the first two phases. The crisis, which involved an explosive device inside a vehicle, tested CAT, EOC, incident command and unit personnel with understanding their specific role and responsibility during a crisis. Barriers to communication and procedural improvements were reviewed during the end of exercise hot wash. These recommendations were documented and will be applied to future exercises.

153rd Airlift Wing Commander Col. Justin Walrath directed the CAT responses during the disease confinement, disaster containment and anti-terrorism scenarios. “This was the most well thought out and executed tabletop exercise in which I have participated,” said Walrath. “It was a success because everyone who participated was engaged and committed to making our processes better.”