Schriever responds to exercise threats

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Darren Domingo
  • 50th Space Wing Public Affairs

Schriever Air Force Base members responded to tornado and active-shooter scenarios June 6 – 16, 2016, as part of Opinicus Vista 16-2, an installation exercise.

The 50th Space Wing Inspector General office led the planning and execution of the exercise and coordinated with wing inspection teams to test and observe units’ response actions.

“The whole purpose of this exercise was to take it to another level, where we want (our readiness level) to be now, as well as where we’re going,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeremey Hazelwonder, wing exercise section chief.

The exercise began with intelligence reports that led to a string of lone-wolf attacks on U.S. military installations. The attacks served as a catalyst for Schriever and its units to raise security measures for potential events coming their way. The first situation 50th Security Forces Squadron met involved personnel trying to gain unlawful access to the base.

The defenders responded to the situation well, according to Hazelwonder.

Although this scenario was held on a sunny day, a few days later, the horizon turned heavily overcast with the next exercise inject – a tornado touchdown on Schriever.

The simulated tornado damaged fence lines, homes, vehicles, generators, power systems and other facilities.

“Tornados can happen out here, so we practice in preparation for real-word events. Given the complexity of the scenarios, responding units along with support functions all worked very well together to mitigate exercise damage to facilities with an emphasis on life safety. This was a very great experience for all the different support functions to coordinate efforts to resolve exercise scenario issues,” said Tracey Snyder, Schriever Fire Department assistant chief of training.

“The tornado scenario was a lot of things all combined into one. It had monumental moving parts, so we wanted to see how it all came together,” said Hazelwonder.

A natural disaster event, such as a tornado, calls for more hands on deck, as many agencies played crucial roles in responding.

“A lot of the exercises – especially short sprints, will only affect a small group, either the (Emergency Operations Center) or just the security forces. The tornado exercise included everyone. Civil engineering responded, security forces was responding and the (50th Force Support Squadron) played a huge part in finding houses for the (displaced) people,” said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Bowles, Inspector General Evaluation Management System administrator.

The simulated turmoil wasn’t over, as the final scenario was an active-shooter exercise. Testing Schriever and its tenants’ response was vital to IG’s inspection.

Bowles explained preparation for active-shooter situations are deeply woven into today’s readiness operations.

“It’s a huge emphasis in the (Department of Defense). It used to be something we practiced as an acknowledgement to its existence, but now, active-shooter (training) is mandated for all (military) installations. We have to keep practicing this because it can happen any day to any base,” he said.

The simulated active-shooter scenario included the presence of chemical agents as well as a potential bomb threat, prompting emergency response. Additional assistance for the exercise included the Ellicott Fire Department, Rocky Mountain Emergency Response and additional medical support.

According to Hazelwonder, the expanse of Schriever’s exercise operations has grown immensely throughout the last few years. Lou Fischer, 50 SW IG inspections director, explained the need for exercises is critical for Schriever to be ready for the future.

“Overall, we’ve showed drastic improvement from previous exercises, there was a definite improvement in sense of urgency from the base population. But there is always room for improvement, we can only get better through exercises. The more we practice, the better prepared we are for real-world events,” said Fischer.