MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- An explosion near the barracks complex rocked the Air Station March 14. According to investigators, the blast was the result of a bomb planted by a terrorist operating aboard the Air Station.
Although the attack was a planned drill executed to test the Air Station's emergency response, it was essential for officials to measure MCAS Beaufort's force protection plans and actual response to a mass casualty event. During the exercise, the base’s operational tempo adjusted to escalated security concerns and first responders such as the Provost Marshals Office, Air Station Structural Fire and Emergency Services Department and Explosive Ordnance Disposal reacted to the surprise scenario.
“The (drill) was designed to exercise the Station's capability to analyze intelligence, apply concepts and procedures outlined in the Station Force Protection Plan and conduct response/recovery operations in the event of a terrorist attack,” said Capt. Carlos Gonzalez, the deputy provost marshal here.
The Department of Defense requires a mass casualty drill to be held before any air show to ensure the Air Station has the proper capabilities to treat and transport injured personnel to local medical facilities, explained Gary Rivard, the Air Station’s Anti-Terrorism Officer. This year’s Air Show is scheduled for April 21-22 and the exercise served as good practice for possible threats or mishaps during the show.
“This was good for the base because the Air Show is coming up, and it helps to show what we are doing and what areas we need to improve in,” said Master Sgt. Rose Cole, the Air Station operations chief. “It’s necessary for us to check ourselves and make sure we are prepared for any situation.”
The main scenario of the drill included M and N Barracks being bombed by the Red Cell, a group of terrorists played by Air Station Marines. After PMO arrived to secure the scene, first responders tended to and treated the simulated casualties, Rivard explained.
“We always learn small ways to improve our response, but communication and getting qualified people to the scene is always the key in an emergency response,” Rivard said.
The second part of the scenario involved the terrorists taking a hostage at the Air Station food court and taking him at gunpoint to the Hard Corps Café.
“After we received a report that a hostage was taken, we sent our trained hostage negotiators to the scene to interact with the hostage takers and try to talk them out,” said 2nd Lt. Jacob Hoskins, a PMO operations officer.
When talks with the Red Cell fell through, the order for the Air Station’s Special Response Team to move in was given and the team tactically entered the building to neutralize the terrorist threat, Hoskins explained.
The Marines and sailors of Fightertown should expect more of these drills in the future because having an effective reactionary force involves routine practice and meeting learning objectives, according to Rivard.
“Our mission is always accomplished because we learn each and every time we practice,” Rivard said. “Our mission is essentially to be proactive with our reactionary forces.”