While many people may be getting ready for bed at 9 p.m. most evenings, on Aug. 8 approximately 40 personnel from the 56th Security Forces Squadron and 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal, as well as a few members of local law enforcement, participated in an exercise involving a suspicious package at the security forces building on Luke Air Force Base.
According to Jerold Haupt, 56th SFS standardized evaluations chief, the scenario began with an Airman being held hostage by two nonmilitary members.
“Our scenario then had a witness notify SFS of the suspicious activity, description of suspects, as well as a possible description of the suspect’s vehicle,” he said. “Once the suspect’s vehicle was located, a high-risk traffic stop was initiated.”
It was SFS’s job to take control of the situation and find out where the threat was.
“We first gained control of the personnel in the vehicle to figure out what the intentions were,” said Tech. Sgt. Kelly Speaks, 56th SFS training NCO-in-charge. “We did a sweep of the area to find the threat, which was in the SFS building, and cordoned off the affected area.”
After the package was found by SFS and military working dogs, the area was immediately evacuated and EOD came in, said Capt. Edmund Spivak, 56th CES EOD flight commander.
“It was a simulated timed device, so time was of the essence,” Spivak said. “Our job was to assess the situation and figure out the safest way possible to get the device out before the time expired, and we did.”
Although the exercise involved both SFS and EOD, local civilian law enforcement agencies, including Avondale and Tolleson police. The Department of Corrections also joined the exercise and worked alongside SFS.
“It’s important for us to get civilian agencies involved since we do not know everything,” said Staff Sgt. Dustin Barnes, 56th SFS military working dog handler. “And it’s great to share advice and training with one another, enabling us to learn from each other and then practice what we’ve learned.”
While it is imperative for the Airmen and the civilian law enforcement agencies to be able to work together, it is most important for SFS, EOD and others to partake in exercises like this at least quarterly, Spivak said.
“Exercises like this allow us to find deficiencies,” he said. “It also gives us a chance to make sure procedures are followed in a timely manner.”
For Spivak, the exercise went smoothly.
“I would say we all did excellent,” he said. “I was very pleased with SFS’s reaction time. The incident commander did a great job controlling the scene and our Airmen from EOD did great. They ended up beating the time on the device, since they executed their decisions quickly.”
Similarly, Speaks agreed the outcome was good.
“This exercise allowed us to reinforce our strong capabilities and to strengthen others,” she said. “In addition, we conduct these exercises to lead, mentor and teach our newer Airmen what they will be required to do in stressful and tense real-world situations. Exercises such as these help us to better protect and defend the people of Luke and its resources.”