Fort Stewart took real-world situations into account Tuesday and Wednesday during a post-wide public safety training exercise.
The installation’s Directorate of Emergency Services and other associated agencies rehearsed a coordinated emergency response to a domestic terrorism threat Tuesday and simultaneously held active-shooter and hostage-taking scenarios at the Soldier Service Center, building 253, at 55 Pony Soldier Ave. on Wednesday.
Garrison commander Col. Kevin Milton said Fort Stewart emergency personnel learned
valuable lessons from last year’s real-life, hostage-taking incident at Winn Army Community Hospital, and incorporated the strong points of that crisis’ response into this week’s training. Milton said the exercise is part of the installation’s annual force protection plan. After an exercise is completed or a real-life situation is dealt with, an assessment is done to critique any flaws in a post agency’s response, he said.
Ex-soldier Robert Anthony Quinones, 29, took three people hostage at gunpoint last September. Quinones had entered Winn’s emergency room demanding he receive psychological treatment.
Fort Stewart also dealt with an anthrax scare late last October, when a garrison postal worker complained of respiratory distress after handling a suspicious package. The substance was found to have been powdered shaving cream.
Milton said soldiers were stationed alongside Department of the Army civilian guards at Fort Stewart’s gates yesterday and all Army units followed strict guidelines in checking identification before allowing people to enter or exit garrison buildings.
The colonel said the installation’s first responders "gained confidence and competence" in tactics they’d learned over the years from the post-wide training.
"It helps us to stretch our systems," he said.
Military police officer Sgt. Douglas Chapman was a member of a special-reaction team during the exercise. Chapman said his team’s assignment was to "go in after the hostage situation."
"We did not know how many people were in there," Chapman said. He said the team first established security around the area, and EMS personnel were then escorted in to "evaluate casualties."
A hostage negotiator also was brought in, Chapman said. After negotiations were successfully completed, Chapman’s team apprehended the hostage-taker, he said.
Milton said these types of post-wide exercises are held several times a year.