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Exercise measures base capabilities

Staff Sgt. Arletha Lewis portrays a casualty of a chemical attack as firemen from the Patrick Fire Department act as first responders during the weeklong Anti-Terrorism Exercise held Dec. 1-5 on Patrick Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Laviska)

Staff Sgt. Arletha Lewis, 45 Space Wing Ground Safety, portrays a casualty of a chemical attack as firemen from the Patrick Fire Department act as first responders during the weeklong Anti-Terrorism Exercise held Dec. 1-5 on Patrick Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Laviska)

45th Medical Group workers carefully check out the medical conditions of a “victim” before deciding on what actions to take during Patrick Air Force Base's antiterrorism exercise Dec. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Laviska)

45th Medical Group workers carefully check out the medical conditions of a “victim” before deciding on what actions to take during Patrick Air Force Base's antiterrorism exercise Dec. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Laviska)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.

That was pretty much the word of the week as the 45th Space Wing underwent a base-wide anti-terrorism exercise.

From the placement of suspicious packages, to an unauthorized landing on the 45th's runway, to the taking of hostages, to the evacuation of buildings to the massing of protestors at the back gate - and more - the week-long, DOD-mandated exercise tested nearly every unit or office on both Patrick and at the Cape.

"Getting everyone involved was General Bolton's intent," said Capt. Kenneth Clawson, 45th SW Anti-Terrorism Officer, "including several agencies from the local community."

One such group effort occurred Tuesday morning, when several Patrick Air Force Base Airmen, civilians and volunteers worked together with Brevard County first responders and Health First personnel as they tested their ability to work together to quickly decontaminate and treat those affected by a "chemical spray."

While a couple dozen "victims" were taken to the 45th Space Wing Clinic, several dozen others were also transported to area hospitals around the county.

"In a real-world incident involving large numbers of casualties, we would need to lean on the local health facilities for support" said Capt. Clawson. "The exercise Tuesday morning tested their capability in handling large numbers of patients for those off-base hospitals."

Also being tested at the same time were members of the 45th Medical Group where the exercise tested the clinic's ability to quickly lock down, decontaminate patients and determine what treatment they needed.

Lt. Col. Teresa Skojac, chief of medical staff for the 45th Medical Group, said she thought their part of the training was going well, but wouldn't know for sure until she and her staff had a chance to sit down and take a good hard look at how things went.

"I'm pretty confident we did some things really, really well, and I'm also equally as confident we will probably discover a few areas where we can do things better. That's not a bad thing; it's to be expected. That's why they call it training," she said.

According to Bob Grijalva, Chief, Inspections and Exercises (IG office) the exercise had some very well defined objectives:

· To exercise and the evaluate 45th Space Wing Operation Plan 10-245, which has to do with increased force protection conditions;

· Evaluate the ability of the 45th Senior Staff, the Installation Control Center, the Command Post, the Emergency Operations Center and subordinate control centers to provide command and control during all phases of the exercise;

· Evaluate the entire base's ability to operate in a continuous high level of readiness for an extended period of time;

· Evaluate the Security Force's ability to respond to suspicious activities throughout different Force Protection conditions;

· Evaluate the "Wing Ready Program," to include "Faces to Spaces" and looks at the qualifications of tasked personnel;

· Evaluate each commander's ability to identify both essential and non-essential personnel in the case of a real-world emergency;

· Evaluate the base's overall ability to disseminate information to unit and family members;

· And to evaluate the "Base Barrier Plan," and its implementation.

"Our main focus during any of our exercises is to test and maintain readiness," said Mr. Grijalva.

"Contrary to what many people think, we don't exercise for the specific preparation of inspections. We do this to ensure our response forces keep that sharp edge in the event of an actual contingency ... to mitigate the loss of life and protect Air Force resources. That's this office's mission," he said.

Mission complete.