A simulated helicopter crash which led to a wildfire at White Sands Missile Range was part of a Full Scale Exercise training event, Nov. 7.
The event was one of several training events held regularly as a way to test and train the response of almost every facet of WSMR’s organizations during an emergency situation. The event lasted the entire day with observers from outside of WSMR grading and evaluating WSMR’s response team throughout the exercise.
“The WSMR Full Scale Exercise was a great exercise. The Garrison’s first responders were well trained and sure and confident in their response to the helicopter accident as well as their wild land fire fighting capability and procedures,” said David Clark, an observer from Fort Bliss.
The exercise started with a report of a helicopter crash, which left two dead and two injured. The fire from the helicopter crash turned into a wildfire that affected the safety of the residents and civilians. The response team was then called into the Emergency Operations Center to play out the proper protocol that would take place during this type of emergency situation in real life. Garrison Commander, Col. Brian Michelson even took part in a mock video interview to determine the do’s and don’ts during a live interview.
“We do an emergency Full Scale Exercise every year, the Fire Department is also mandated to do its own individual training as well as DES. We have a fairly robust exercise program to prepare us…so that we are able to respond to (emergencies) properly,” Michelson said during the mock interview.
Clark and his team observe 25 Full Scale Exercises within Garrison every year. Clark said WSMR’s exercise was unique in that it is one of the only Garrisons with a potential threat of a wildfire. Though the storyline for the exercise was unique, Clark said the response team did well in their reaction to such a situation.
“The Garrison staffs worked hard to plan, coordinate, and execute appropriate emergency action measures to ensure WSMR property was protected and that personnel were informed of the latest events and mitigating it as it all unfolded,” Clark said.
The exercise lasted almost the entire workday and ended with an evaluation and an After Action Review. The After Action Review is conducted by the response team itself, the team is able to voice any concerns or problems they saw arise that may become an issue during a real emergency. Each exercise brings about new issues and problems that the response team faces, which they are able to address before the next exercise.