May 7, 2017 –
Dousing out rising flames is a routine duty for a fireman, but during Guardian Response 17 at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC), responsibilities are anything but routine for the firemen of 468th Engineer Detachment.
This exercise simulates a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) attack and pushes the U.S. Army Reserve, National Guard and Active Duty Soldiers to provide assistance to the Defense Support for Civil Authorities’ (DSCA) mission. Soldiers from the Danvers, Massachusetts-based 468th Eng. Det. conducted search and rescue missions at a train derailment site, May 7, 2017.
The train derailment is one of many real-life scenarios located throughout MUTC that create realistic training events for Soldiers participating in Guardian Response and serve as a unique training opportunity for the 468th Eng. Det.
“The scenarios are unbelievable, very realistic, and absolutely great training for a real life event,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Wayne Smith, commander, 468th Eng. Det., from Manchester, New Hampshire. “Our mission is to recover victims from a train wreck as a result of a collapsed bridge.”
As it is organized, the 468th Eng. Det. is trained to fight fires; however, as part of its DSCA-related duties, it is prepared to provide additional resources for search and rescue operations. Being prepared for these types of missions requires prior training, but unexpected scenarios here keep the Soldiers ready for anything.
“We came up to the site not knowing what we were walking into,” said Sgt. Mathew Annis, a firefighter with the 468th Eng. Det. and a Boston native. “Most of us are firefighters and we usually only use small training props. Out here we have been using actual people for training which keeps us in shape and prevents us from getting rusty.”
Soldiers are equipped in full mission oriented protective posture (MOPP) gear to prepare them for a real life situation in which harmful radiation or chemicals pose additional risks. Wearing the full MOPP gear gives the Soldiers an accurate perception of what working in a radioactive disaster area is like. The multi-car train derailment contained eight casualties and the 468th Eng. Det. was first tasked to assess the area before attempting to save the victims.
“Before we can do anything, we send a recon team in to test for radioactivity in the disaster area,” said Annis. “Knowing the radiation hazards allows us to have a full understanding of the scenario.”
The train derailment is a different training event from what the firefighters from the 468th Eng. Det. are used to but, in the event of a real catastrophic event, it is likely the type of mission that Soldiers would face.
“This training prepares us for real-world scenarios,” said Spc. Joseph Burke, a firefighter with the 468th Eng. Det., and a Boston native. “It is a lot more physical than what we normally do, but I have never seen anything like this before.”