By Sgt. Terence Ewings
24th Press Camp Headquarters
MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. — In a simulated training venue, soldiers assigned to the 181st Chemical Company, 2nd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade, swiftly made their way to a derailed commercial train to evacuate citizens lodged in the inoperable vehicle.
The troopers responded to a distress call from civilian authorities to provide support to displaced citizens during the U.S. Army North led training exercise at the former Jefferson Proving Grounds near Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Ind., on Aug. 1.
"The primary mission for the troops conducting this mission is to identify and contain a possible chemical leak coming from a rail car, while also evacuating civilians away from the scene," said Brenda Jacinto, the site manager for the train derailment exercise.
Jacinto, a retired service member and civilian contractor, assisted in setting up the training venue, and ensuring troopers followed all safety procedures while conducting the exercise.
"From past experiences and actually seeing the soldiers go through this venue you can tell these guys know their job, and they can execute their mission," said Jacinto.
After arriving on the scene, the soldiers dispatched a reconnaissance team to determine the number of wounded civilians on the train and around the area.
In addition to finding the civilians, the team also was responsible for using their chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear equipment to detect any possible hazardous contaminants that might be in the area or leaking from the rail cars.
"I think it's pretty awesome we get the opportunity to participate in this type of training," said 1st Lt. Vanesa Mena-Fernandez, the logistics officer for the 2nd Chemical Battalion.
As a former platoon leader of a chemical unit, Mena-Fernandez helped the company set up and operate the tactical operations center for the exercise.
"This is really neat training and being part of battalion staff usually I wouldn't have the opportunity to come out and train we these guys," said Mena-Fernandez. "After all the hours of training we put in, it makes me feel proud that the soldiers can go out here and perform and conduct exercises at this level."
Once the unit determined what type of possible contaminants and hazardous materials they might encounter, the soldiers dressed in their Class A chemical protection gear and began evacuating survivors.
After identifying a possible leak, the soldiers immediately evacuated the remaining civilians from the scene and cordoned off the area in an attempt to contain the chemical spill.
"Our soldiers came out here to do what we're trained to do, and at the end of the day that's saving lives," said Staff Sgt. Ramon Reece, battle captain for the chemical company.
As battle captain, Reece is responsible overseeing everything all the soldiers on the ground, and issuing out quick and concise orders to his troops at a moments notice.
"We've had to overcome some challenges throughout this entire Vibrant Response exercise, but that's what we're here to do train and become more (proficient) in our craft," said Reece.
About 5,000 soldiers participated in this phase of the Vibrant Response exercise to demonstrate their ability to support local, state and civilian authorities in the event of a man-made or natural disaster.