Overcoming contingencies: 91st MW conducts natural disaster field training exercise

Staff Sgt. Haven Cherry, 5th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, dons his protective gear, during a field training exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 20, 2013. The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate and validate the integration and response of emergency management, security forces, fire department, medical and missile field operations to an incident. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

Staff Sgt. Haven Cherry, 5th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, dons his protective gear, during a field training exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 20, 2013. The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate and validate the integration and response of emergency management, security forces, fire department, medical and missile field operations to an incident. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians assigned to the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron arrive at the scene of an incident during a field training exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 20, 2013. The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate and validate the integration and response of emergency management, security forces, fire department, medical and missile field operations to an incident. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians assigned to the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron arrive at the scene of an incident during a field training exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 20, 2013. The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate and validate the integration and response of emergency management, security forces, fire department, medical and missile field operations to an incident. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

Bioenvironmental technicians assigned to the 5th Medical Support Squadron set up an air sampler during a field training exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 20, 2013. The air sampler is used to detect radioactive particles in the air. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

Bioenvironmental technicians assigned to the 5th Medical Support Squadron set up an air sampler during a field training exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 20, 2013. The air sampler is used to detect radioactive particles in the air. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

An agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigations speaks with the incident commander during a field training exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 20, 2013. The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate and validate the integration and response of emergency management, security forces, fire department, medical and missile field operations to an incident. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

An agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigations speaks with the incident commander during a field training exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 20, 2013. The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate and validate the integration and response of emergency management, security forces, fire department, medical and missile field operations to an incident. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations arrive at the scene of an incident during a field training exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 20, 2013. The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate and validate the integration and response of emergency management, security forces, fire department, medical and missile field operations during a natural disaster. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations arrive at the scene of an incident during a field training exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 20, 2013. The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate and validate the integration and response of emergency management, security forces, fire department, medical and missile field operations during a natural disaster. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

Liaisons from various base agencies speak with the incident commander during a field training exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 20, 2013. The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate and validate the integration and response of emergency management, security forces, fire department, medical and missile field operations during a natural disaster. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

Liaisons from various base agencies speak with the incident commander during a field training exercise at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 20, 2013. The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate and validate the integration and response of emergency management, security forces, fire department, medical and missile field operations during a natural disaster. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The 91st Missile Wing conducted a field training exercise here, Aug. 20, to evaluate and validate the integration and response of emergency management, security forces, fire department, medical and missile field operations during a natural-disaster situation.

The exercise was conducted at one of Minot AFB's training launch facilities. Evaluators from Air Force Global Strike Command were at hand to inspect the efficacy of the 91st MW's and 5th Bomb Wing's total-force response to the singular event.

This field training exercise provides training similar to the Nuclear Weapon Accident Incident Exercise (NUWAIX) held here in 2012, but at a far smaller scale.

In the exercise scenario, a payload transporter, carrying an important missile wing asset, is en route to one of the missile facilities out in the prairies of North Dakota, near the towns of Carpio and Berthold, N.D. A sporadic storm system, common in North Dakota during the summer season, enters the vicinity of where the payload transporter is located. The storm system eventually develops into a tornado, with estimated winds of 166 to 200 mph. The 91st MW commander orders a shelter-in-place directive, ordering the payload transporter to shelter at the nearby missile alert facility, Juliet 1. The tornado's path is inevitable; the tornado passes within 50 meters of Juliet 1.

The exercise scenario also included significant damage to the payload transporter: the catalyst for a full-scale, integrated emergency response to the site.

"These contingency exercises are very important for us," said Col. Robert J. Vercher, commander of the 91st Missile Wing. "They prepare us for various scenarios, such as tornados and other natural events, which can occur outside of our control.

In 2003, President George W. Bush issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5, providing a single and comprehensive approach to domestic incident management. From the directive came the National Response Framework and the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which instantiated a required multi-agency response to any domestic incident or accident of significant consequence.

Based on this framework, various federal, state and local government agencies would converge onto the site involving a 91st MW asset. This exercise is meant to practice such integrated response of all the various government agencies involved.

"In this scenario, which involves very important national resources, a combined federal, state and local response is expected," said Vercher. "Providing a safe and secure deterrent force is our mission, so naturally we want to execute and train hard for unexpected circumstances."

The field training exercise is only one aspect of the 91st MW's three-day training. For the next two days, AFGSC evaluators will sit down with the 91st MW and supporting agencies to go over strengths and weakness of their initial response during the field training portion, in addition to a step-by-step walkthrough of the transition process, from the incident response force initially on scene to the response task force that concludes the situation.