A two-day full-scale antiterrorism exercise took place at White Sands Missile Range Oct. 17 and 18. The exercise tested WSMR’s ability to respond to real-world situations and provided essential training to several different facets of WSMR’s emergency response team.
“Exercises like these show the WSMR community that we continue to prepare for real-world emergencies,” said WSMR Department of Plans, Training, and Mobilization Division Chief Dennis Stockwell. “The exercise helped us identify areas we need to improve on.”
The exercise began Oct. 17 with a “suspicious package” that was found in the mailroom. The WSMR Fire Department responded to the scene and put their Hazardous Material training to use during the exercise. The package in question was tested and contained by two firefighters in full HAZ-MAT suits. The suspicious package exercise took most of the morning and could not have happened without the cooperation of the garrison community, Stockwell said.
WSMR Fire Chief Carlos Soto said his fire crew did exactly what they were trained and prepared to do during an emergency.
“We prepare for these types of events in a real-world setting all of the time,” he said.
During the exercise sections that surrounded the mailroom were closed off to ensure the community’s safety, and employees in surrounding buildings were asked to shelter-in-place until the package was identified and cleared.
“If we didn’t fully play out an exercise like this, some people may be caught off guard and not know what to do in a real-life emergency,” Stockwell said. “This is great practice for the entire community and helps them to normalize the steps they need to take during an emergency situation.”
WSMR Mail Manager Tom Lopez, who was also an observer during the exercise, said he was proud of his mail crew, Robert Palacios and Raymond Marrujo.
“I give them credit,” he said. “They did everything according to the Standard of Operations.”
On Oct. 18 an “active-shooter,” scenario took place and some community members, to include the White Sands School, were asked to shelter-in-place during the exercise. Notices were sent out to parents and teachers about the lockdown. Students and school personnel were told to expect to see Soldiers with training rifles during the exercise. The lockdown drill will also fulfill the school’s training requirement. During midday the Oro Grande gate was barricaded off due to increased security measures.
After the exercise, key players and a team of observers and subject-matter-experts held an After Action Review. The review is meant to identify any improvements the team may have noticed during the exercise in order to execute the actions better in the future or in case of a real-world emergency.