It’s 3 a.m. on Monday and Fort Stewart’s 1st Heavy Brigade Combat team has just been alerted that several chemical and radiological attacks were launched near Orlando, Fla.
State officials have requested federal help and FEMA has called on the Joint Task Force Civil Support’s emergency response team CCMRF, (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosiveconsequence management response force.)
Twelve-hundred men and women of the Raider brigade must have their bags packed, ready to head down to Camp Blanding, Fla., within the next 24-hours.
Jumping forward: one day later
It’s 2 a.m. Tuesday and the soldiers of 1st HBCT are packed into Caro gym, waiting to fly to their assigned destination.
Before they head out, they are briefed by the brigade’s brass.
“As many of you know, FEMA has requested our help and we’ve been tasked with the tactical operations on the ground in Florida,” Maj. Marc Cloutier said. “The Secretary of Defense has ordered the employment of CCMRF.
“We will be going in unarmed and, remember, we’re not acting as law enforcement. We will be acting within the limits of Title 10.”
After the briefing, the force gets on buses waiting in the gym’s parking lot. They head to Hunter Army Airfield where nearly a dozen Black Hawk helicopters and a few Chinooks wait to take them to the camp.
24 hours later: arriving in Florida
The task has been set.
JTFCS commander Maj. Gen. Daniel Long has given the 1st HBCT commander the mission: Sudden Response 2009, a fake, but hopefully realistic, exercise for the 1st, JTFCS’s first-ever officially designated federal emergency response team.
Cloutier’s men are to “hypothetically” offer Florida tactical and logistical assistance, just like they would in an actual man-made or natural disaster.
The operation, over the next few days, translates into the force providing transportation of supplies for humanitarian efforts, wellness checks and route clearance operations for locals living in the area.
Raider 6, a.k.a. Cloutier, is tracking.
“We’ve got our men on the ground, setting up and we’re ready to execute our mission,” he said.
48-hours later: a “real world” exercise
It’s about 10 a.m. Wednesday and the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st HBCT are headed to the make-shift city of Lowryville, a small city on the outskirts of Jacksonville, very close to where the “imaginary” chemical and radiological explosions were detonated a few days ago.
According to officials on the scene, there is concern about a nearby facility that houses the town’s generator. It is believed to store chlorine — an agent that could have leaked during the attacks.
The citizens of Lowryville are outraged and in a panic about residents who fell ill after the incident and who they believe may be in desperate need of medical help and isolation.
Lowryville is actually at the MOUT site, located at Camp Blanding. The military operations on urban terrain facility is used to train soldiers to operate in urban areas, using real buildings, real people and real disastrous situations.
2-7 commander Lt. Col. Greg Sierra, is in charge of the operation.
He said his men will do whatever federal management officials ask.
“Our role is to conduct wellness checks and assess what the situation is,” he said. “We’re helping FEMA determine what needs there are on the ground.”
Sierra’s men have gone door-to-door checking for the sick and those who could have possibly been contaminated.
They have assessed the situation and determined the city needs medical evacuations, as well as possible decontamination procedures.
While they wait for the joint-services to arrive, the crowd becomes rowdy and the soldiers face a dilemma.
Whether to control the crowd?
Sierra’s answer is “no.”
Under Posse Comitatus, a federal regulation limiting the powers of the federal government to use the military as law enforcement, “the soldiers are not allowed to act or stand in place of local police,” the colonel said.
“We’re only supposed to support them, if they need us,” he said.
A concept that CCMRF officials said can become blurred and, at times, a very thin line.
“This is how it would be in the real world,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jamie Goodpaster, a public affairs officer with the JTFCS. “Just like this, with so much going on, it could be a little confusing.”
The mission moves forward — on to the next operation
To be continued in Sunday’s edition of the Courier.