Lethal Breeze storms through MCB Hawaii

by Kristen Wong, Marine Corps Base Hawaii
U.S. Marine Corps

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII -- Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Swint, a hospital corpsman with Naval Health Clinic Hawaii Kaneohe Bay branch, lies on the ground in the clinic breezeway, his left leg ruby red, his assailant at large. The clinic is deathly still except for the distant sound of the base’s Giant Voice, making an announcement.

“Exercise! Exercise! Exercise!” the Giant Voice said. “There is an active shooter aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii at the Naval health clinic.”

More than 150 Marines, sailors and civilians aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii and representatives from Regional Exercise Team-West participated in Lethal Breeze 2014 aboard MCB Hawaii, Sept. 8 and 9, 2014.

Lethal Breeze is an annual exercise in which an emergency situation is simulated on base, whether natural disasters, attacks or other serious incidents, to help prepare numerous departments on base to respond appropriately.

“Every installation should have a force protection plan or (disaster)-preparedness plan,” said Mike Allen, the lead planner for the Mission Assurance – Force Protection Office of the base Emergency Operations Center. “It’s good to have (anti-terrorism force protection) on paper, but if you don’t exercise it, (it’s) not going to do any good. You need to exercise any type of plan you might have in place to survey potential security shortfalls, evaluate (current procedures), and (test) previously-identified security or procedure issues.”

Allen said in the past, Lethal Breeze exercises have helped authorities see possible flaws in various areas such as procedure or equipment.

“In general we always find things we need to work on or make better,” he said.

Allen was responsible for helping personnel coordinate the two scenarios conducted for Lethal Breeze 2014. Personnel from the Provost Marshal’s Office, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Waterfront Operations, Marine and Family Programs and other departments each applied their training in emergency procedures to each scenario.

Jessica Kunert, the senior exercise planner for Regional Exercise Team-West, was one of two visiting contractors based out of California who work in support of Marine Corps’ Installation Command’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive Integrated Installation Protection Program. Regional Exercise Team-West supports exercises for all installations within Marine Corps Installations West and Marine Corps Installations Pacific.

Kunert said the team annually provides support for 20 to 30 emergency-preparedness exercises, preparing various exercise materials from fake weapons to role player scripts, amongst other duties.

“We provide administrative and some logistics support,” she said. “We help (installations) plan, conduct and (evaluate) the exercise.”

On the morning of Sept. 8, an emergency message was generated and distributed out of the base EOC. Allen said the scenario called for the installation to escalate the force protection condition from Alpha to FPCON Bravo.

The Mokapu Gate was closed in the morning of Sept. 9 as PMO military police officers and civilian MPs attempted to identify a driver suspected of having a simulated improvised explosive device in their vehicle.

During the afternoon scenario, base authorities responded to an active shooter who had “injured” and “killed” personnel at NHCH K-Bay branch.

As the MPs apprehended the “shooter,” Federal Fire Department authorities supported victims while Naval Criminal Investigative Service questioned the suspect.

In the aftermath of the simulated incident, role players went to Marine and Family Programs in building 216 to seek assistance, whether trying to cope with the recent trauma or asking for logistical help. Marine Corps Community Services staff kept their offices secure, checking the identifi cation card of each person before entering the building.

Ashley Lopez, a medical assistant in the Optometry Clinic at NHCH K-Bay, and her co-workers evacuated the clinic and headed to building 216.

Lopez played a mother who evacuated the clinic and needed to pick up her child from one of the base’s child development centers.

“They’re very efficient,” Lopez said of the MCCS staff who assisted her during the scenario. “They showed me where to go, they took care (of me) if I needed help emotionally, or if I had any other questions they were able to answer for me.”

Kunert said subject-matter experts will provide evaluation feedback based on their observations of the responders during each scenario. The experts will recommend areas in which departments can improve, from receiving additional training to obtaining new equipment. Kunert said the feedback will be consolidated into a final After Action Report published by Mission Assurance.

“I think it was a very well-coordinated exercise (with) heavy participation,” Kunert said. “(The) participants did pretty well, especially PMO, responding to the active shooter. They did exactly what they were supposed to do. (Participants showed) good coordination in what honestly is a very complicated situation.”

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