NEWS | Nov. 2, 2009

NAS Whidbey Island/NRNW Wraps Up IPP Guardian Exercises

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tucker M. Yates, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- Navy Region Northwest (NRNW) concluded a round of Installation Protection Program (IPP) Guardian exercises with the completion of a full-scale exercise at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, Oct. 27-29.

IPP Guardian is a Joint Program Exercise Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defense exercise intended to test various base capabilities in response to an unknown CBRN threat that has the potential to endanger an installation's personnel, facilities and/or assets.

"The CBRN IPP mission is to help Department of Defense installations worldwide to be able to respond to a CBRN event and sustain itself between 12 and 24 hours, because it will probably take that long for state, local, and federal assistance to arrive," said Luis Negron, Continental United States IPP deputy.

"The program used crawl, walk, run phases of training. The tabletop is a discussion-based exercise, for functional awareness we have the leadership discuss decision-making issues they might have, and, for the full-scale, we actually run (the exercise)," added Negron.

The exercises conducted involved simulated releases of hazardous materials including chlorine gas at Naval Station Everett, Oct. 21, and a nerve agent, sarin gas, at NAS Whidbey Island. The installations involved were afforded the opportunity to test the proficiency of their procedures and equipment in mitigating a toxic event.

"(The installations) did great considering they didn't have any equipment 14 months ago. They got the equipment fielded and then went through a series of training events which led up to the full-scale exercise," said Herb Gould, NRNW Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive coordinator. "We trained to ensure they had a level of confidence on the equipment for (CBRN) response. "

"It was truly a testament to the training that's been done up to this point that I could step in, and, not really having the expertise that the operations officer has, effectively fill that role. All the players were able to teach me as we went, and we were able to respond appropriately," said Cmdr. Werner Rauchenstein, NAS Whidbey Island assistant operations officer, who performed as the acting operations officer for the exercise.

According to Gould, steps are being taken to develop an after action report which will be used to implement a training program for these installations to ensure the perishable skills acquired over the course of these exercises will be retained.

"This is not the end. This is just the beginning, and now we've got a baseline but still a lot of work ahead to make sure fire, security and the medical folks are all on the same sheet of music when we have an event. That's crucial for success in any CBRNE event; that's the way ahead," said Gould. "I'm highly confident that our installations can handle a CBRNE event right now, and my plan is to sustain those skill sets for those first-responders on all installations. I feel my responsibility to the region is to ensure that they have those skill sets on the equipment. I think we're on the right track for success. "

Communication and coordination efforts and learning the responsibilities of the entities involved are an integral part of hazard response according to Negron. Some participants learned that these processes can also be applied to day-to-day operations to improve preparedness.

"Besides responding to a CBRN event, in the process of learning how to do this, we also learned how to train. We learned how to communicate to each other both what we need to continue doing well and what we need to work on," said Rauchenstein. "Two days ago we were all doing our job to the best of our ability and doing a great job. Today, I recognize that we're not just doing our jobs, but working together effectively and communicating to not only make the air station run well, but be able to respond to natural and man-made disasters. "

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