By Sgt. Terry Brady, Defense Media Activity
PERRY, Ga. --
It was early in the morning in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The city was laid to waste with buildings toppling over their obscene weight, while dust, debris and destroyed cars decorated the cityscape.
As the day went on, crying and yelling could be heard in the distance, the cries of souls adrift as they languished in a decimated complex.
This was the scenario that the Marines with Chemical Biological Incident Response Force were faced with when they scouted a simulation event at Guardian Centers in Perry, Georgia, March 23-34, 2017, during Exercise Scarlet Response 2017.
“Scarlet Response is one of the most important exercises that we do every year [and] we consider it our certification exercise,” said Navy Lt. Lyndsy Meyer, the Initial Response Force A science officer. “It certifies our IRF in their ability to respond, proving to our higher headquarters that we can do what they need us to do.”
Exercise Scarlet Response 2017, a training exercise testing and verifying the capabilities of CBIRF in a disaster event, presented the unit with this scenario during its culminating 36-hour event.
“It was an earthquake scenario that was built around the new Madrid fault line, which is one of the major faults that runs across the U.S.,” said Capt. Evan Carroll, Initial Response Force A commander. “CBIRF got called to respond to help assist with the natural disaster and we found ourselves in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to help [everybody] and get back to normal as fast as possible.”
During the event, all elements of CBIRF were tasked with providing humanitarian assistance to simulated victims of an earthquake. Marines in the unit were presented with situations where they had to perform in jobs they didn’t specialize in, testing the versatility inherent with the unit due to their training at the CBIRF Basic Operations Course (CBOC).
“At CBIRF, we begin with going to a three-week school called CBOC where you learn basic [combat life saver skills], decontamination, victim extraction, as well as the basics in rope rescue,” said Lance Cpl. Lukas Musselwhite, an extractor with CBIRF. “At CBIRF, every Marine could be called out of their individual shops to extract victims as well as decontaminate them, so we have to hone those skills by using lane training and cross training.”
During the event, injections to the scenario, such as improvised explosive devices or chemical agents, were implemented to offset the operating capabilities of CBIRF and cause distress to both the unit and the victims.
“It would affect us in a way that we would finally get a rhythm going and then something else would happen, whether it was finding a suspicious package which turned out to be an IED or an aftershock hit,” said Carroll. “We would have to get everyone out of the area, [and] get accountability to make sure we had everything and then we had to go back and check the structural integrity of everything we had already worked on.”
Being a reaction force for impending domestic threats, CBIRF was prepared for the humanitarian scenario, albeit not their primary function, according to Carroll.
“It’s not always something with a nerve agent, a chemical agent or something like that, so a lot of sections that don’t normally work together got a chance to integrate with each other [and] it was an all hands effort,” said Carroll. “It was something that the Marines Corps was founded on. It’s that brotherhood where they built that bond with one another as they were working through this very difficult structure and it took a while. It was difficult but we got through it and it was a very successful mission.”
The unit proved they were more than capable with handling less familiar territory, as they not only finished early, but it was the first time the unit completed the entire scenario and its missions.
“I couldn’t be more impressed [with] the heart and enthusiasm which they attacked every problem,” said Carroll. “They love what they do [and] they love saving and helping others, and Scarlet Response is one of those exercises that tests you physically and mentally and it drives you to be a better Marine. It will show you stuff you can improve on.”