All aboard for Training
By Senior Airman Alex Fox Echols III, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 22, 2015
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Tyndall's partnerships with the community are sources of pride for its leadership, so when asked to participate in a multi-agency, multi-faceted train exercise, the base was there with full support.
More than 40 members of Tyndall joined over 150 people from local agencies to participate in an extensive train environment exercise Dec. 17 on the Panama City Bay Line Railroad.
"We tried to make it as difficult and challenging as we could for people to exercise their skills," said Michael Murphey, Genesee and Wyoming's Southern Region Railroad director of safety and compliance. "The whole purpose was to raise the skill levels of the participants and help them get better at their craft."
The exercise began right after a train collided with a car full of people. Then it ballooned from there into chaos with multiple injuries inside the locomotive cab, an injured pedestrian that was struck by the train, a hazardous materials spill in one of the boxcars and an improvised explosive device attached to a tanker car filled with ethanol.
"My theory on preparedness exercises is that, 'it's ugly when you go in, and it just gets uglier as you go along,' because a lot of times that's what real life is like," Murphey said. "Until you've made a full tactical assessment of the whole situation, you really don't know what you're getting."
Multiple emergency response units from Tyndall brought out their equipment and expertise to help alleviate the incident including the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Emergency Management Flights as well as 325th Medical Operations Squadron emergency medical technicians.
"The Airmen did a great job, and I couldn't have asked for anything better," said Marty Spikes, 325th CES Readiness and Emergency Management flight chief. "Their attention to detail and their willingness to do whatever it took to get the job done was outstanding, and their sense of urgency was phenomenal."
Attending community agencies were the Department of Transportation, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida State University, the Coast Guard, Genesee and Wyoming, Bay Line Railroad and the Fire and Police Departments from both Panama City and Bay County.
During this exercise, Tyndall Airmen were embedded into their civilian counterpart's units to work hand-in-hand and promote lateral learning on how they would both handle the incidents. The Airmen were trained in the aspects of what to do in the different scenarios and also how to work with the community agencies that would respond in the event of a real life threat or emergency.
"We have mutual aid agreements with the county in the case that there is something that may overwhelm them or be outside of their area of expertise, we have the capability at Tyndall to assist in the mitigation of the problem," said Spikes. "Between Tyndall and Bay County, I believe we are ready for whatever somebody may throw at us."
The amount of realism on scene was paramount to creating an emergency environment. Every incident was played out as if it was really happening, down to actual soap and water being used for the hazardous materials decontamination process.
"This was one of the smoothest exercises I have ever been a part of due to the high level of cooperation and the fact that there was zero simulation," said Senior Master Sgt. Lonney C. Johnson, 325th MDOS superintendent. "It was amazing. They gave us an opportunity to go deep hands on the training."
Each person asked about the quality of the exercise said it was one of the top, if not the best exercise in which they had ever been a part.
"This exercise is probably the best I've been involved with and Tyndall's interaction was absolutely phenomenal," Murphey said. "We had Tyndall personnel involved in every single aspect of this event, and the Airmen that came here were extremely professional in their behavior and knowledge base. I believe everybody involved benefited from the exercise, but it would not have been near the exercise that it was without Tyndall's involvement."
With over 210 personnel involved and dangerous situations at every turn, the exercise could have easily devolved into chaos. But with the right attitude and determination, the Tyndall and community participants were able to come together and accomplish the mission safely and effectively.