First responders, law enforcement and safety and security personnel from Fort Huachuca and the local community went into action Tuesday during an annual, installation-wide exercise designed to test installation and community partner readiness in the event of a terrorist attack or other emergency. Fort Huachuca felt the impact of Apache Warrior 2013, or AW13, for four hours when two separate, simulated incidents caused the Main Gate to shut down, traffic to be rerouted and installation-wide building lockdown. Key personnel responded to the incidents and evaluators observed effectiveness of agencies involved.
Participants in this year’s exercise received no previous warnings or notifications except knowing it would take place sometime this week. At the post-exercise briefing, Col. Dan McFarland, Fort Huachuca garrison commander, said even he did not even know the details of AW13 in advance.
Two terrorism-focused scenarios started within minutes of each other. According to Pat Lotten, Emergency Plans & Operations officer, the plan to have the different scenarios at opposite ends of post served an important purpose.
“What we’ve learned through Lessons Learned and through TTP (Tactics, Techniques and Procedures), is that we know in any type of terrorist event there’s normally a preliminary explosion or incident followed by a second one. That was the concept we employed here with the main ACP (access control point) being a distraction target, but the real target was another location on Fort Huachuca,” Lotten said.
The first scenario began around 9 a.m. at the main gate. Three vehicles exited the Widowed Support Center parking lot and approached the main gate simultaneously.
The last vehicle exploded, drawing guards’ attention as the other two vehicles approached the checkpoint. One of the vehicles managed to enter the installation without being stopped.
Aggressors inside the remaining vehicle exited and opened fire on the guards.
Capt. Jonathan Hernandez, Directorate of Emergency Services, Department of Guard Force, guard captain, played the role of firing back at one of those aggressors only to be shot in the neck.
“This morning has been very eventful [and] very educational. We’ve definitely seen how the system works and what we need to work on,” Hernandez said. “We’ve done scripted scenarios before, but never anything this elaborate – not while I’ve been working on the gate.”
In the second scenario, which began around 9:15 a.m., several explosions occurred in and around Whitside Hall with numerous casualties both inside and out. Incident officials also described Whitside Hall as having sustained moderate to severe damage to parts of the building.
The main target on Fort Huachuca was supposed to be Greely Hall due to the number of occupants, according to Lotten, who stated that officials learned about plans later, through documents found on the terrorists.
“There were supposed to be several targets,” he said. “With 2,000 people working at Greely Hall on a daily basis, [an explosion there] would have been catastrophic.
“The main secondary target was Raymond W. Bliss [Army Health Center]. When the terrorists found they would not be able to get to either location, they chose to hit the closest secondary target, Whitside Hall,” Lotten stated, adding that Weinstein Village was another secondary target. Another distraction was a bomb threat at Alvarado Hall, headquarters of the commanding general. The bomb threat took place and the building was evacuated until it was examined for bombs and cleared.
In addition to the training, participants learned about emergency preparedness from the one-day training event.
“Basically this exercise shows us what we have for manpower response and recall times, and it shows how well we work together with other units on [and off] post,” said Andrew Johnson, Fort Huachuca Fire Department firefighter.
Besides Fort Huachuca personnel, 14 off-post agencies participated in the exercise.
Responders included the FBI, Customs and Border Patrol, Sierra Vista Regional Health Center, AirEvac, Arizona Department of Transportation and several Cochise County police and fire departments.
Lotten said AW13 challenged installation personnel to respond in a multi-incident arena, and an exercise like this one helps improve the environment and cooperative working relationship with community partners.
Lotten thanked all participating agencies but singled out three in particular.
“Sierra Vista Regional Health Center provided emergency medical care for the casualties, just as they would in the real world,” Lotten said. “AirEvac provided medical airlift of casualties from Whitside Hall requiring transport to trauma centers.
“The FBI participation was extremely important, as one of their major roles is response to terrorist threats and events, as they would assume Incident Command.Their active involvement, advice and assistance to Fort Huachuca CID agents and military police officers was invaluable in incident command operations,” he added.
He also added that the Fort Huachuca community learned a lot about being alert and prepared.
For Jesse Markum, installation antiterrorism officer, the exercise was about demonstrating capabilities.
“[AW 13 assisted in] honing skills and detecting strengths and weaknesses so security professionals can efficiently protect the Fort Huachuca community and mission,” he said.
Updated AW 13 information was posted on Channel 97 (the Commander’s Access Channel), the U.S. Army Fort Huachuca Facebook page and the Critical Information Hotline, 538.4636.