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Reserve and active-duty join forces in anti-terrorism exercise

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brandon L. Rizzo
  • 916th Air Refueling Wing
Personnel from the 916th Air Refueling Wing and 4th Fighter Wing participated in the state's largest annual anti-terrorism exercise here during the 916th ARW's unit training assembly November 3.

Exercise Orbit Comet began state-wide October 29 and concluded November 8.

"Orbit Comet" is a state-wide emergency response exercise that involves collaboration between reserve and active-duty forces, as well as the participation of more than 20 other state and federal agencies.

"It was a learning experience for us and the 4th Fighter Wing," said Lt. Col. Gary Wilson, the inspector general for the 916th ARW. "We participated in an exercise with the Fourth back in July, but this one was more hands-on. It tested the communication between the command and control elements and emergency response forces and helped to build host base relations."

Exercise Orbit Comet's theme changes each year, with different scenarios presented on each day of the exercise at different Air Force and Army bases and other regions around the state.

This year, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was tasked with responding to a simulated chemical attack from a low-flying plane.

While 916th ARW personnel were already present for their drill weekend, 4th FW personnel had to be called into work to respond to the threat.

"It tested their leadership's ability to call in their key personnel on a Saturday when they wouldn't normally be here or could even be out of town," said Colonel Wilson.

The 916th ARW provided command and control and command post personnel to join forces with the 4th FW command element in planning and coordinating a response. They also provided some of the evaluators for the Emergency Evaluation Team, as well as role players to simulate the victims of the attack.

The 4th FW Civil Engineer Squadron provided first response with firefighters and a hazardous materials team. They proceeded to analyze the symptoms of the victims and move them to a triage area. Then the victims and the first-response personnel went through a decontamination process.

The exercise was supported by the North Carolina National Guard's 42d Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team. The 42d WMD CST is a joint Army and Air Force unit, which participates in homeland security operations.

"We're tasked with providing WMD response to local and state agencies," said Master Sgt. Ken Jacobsen, a hazard analyst and the operations non-commissioned officer-in-charge for the 42d WMD CST. "We send people down range to collect samples and identify the threat. We advise, assess and assist in responding to WMD events."

Though they mainly support civilian first responders, the 42d WMD CST joined forces with the 916th ARW and 4th FW not only to help assess the threat, but also to serve as part of the EET.

"The 42nd CST provides the chemical expertise for the exercise," said Colonel Wilson. "This collaboration between the units was a great opportunity for both the 916th Air Refueling Wing and the 4th Fighter Wing, and it provided us with valuable lessons for the future."

Last year, the base's emergency scenario involved the simulated crash of a KC-135 Stratotanker.