JPM Guardian helps protect warfighter

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Melissa Phillips
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
 The scenario seems highly unlikely: several terrorists gain entry to the installation and release a toxic substance. Several Airmen die and many more are hospitalized.

Immediately, the installation's emergency management team flies into action to save lives and minimize loss of equipment.

How a team accomplishes its mission is constantly being refined and upgraded throughout the Department of Defense.

One team of experts recently visited here Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 to give Dover Air Force Base, Del., some powerful tools to help safeguard against an enemy who recognizes no borders or rules of engagement.

"We travel to military installations to look at their capabilities and resources," said Jim Kolch, EAI Corporation counterterrorism with weapons of mass destruction subject matter expert. Mr. Kolch was hired under the Joint Project Manager Guardian, also interchangeably called Installation Protection Program Lite.

"The Guardian Program is an assessment of where an installation is today (in their chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive defense programs)," Mr. Kolch said.

Planning and safeguarding companies, cities and U.S. military installations against the seemingly impossible is the business of EAI that is a fully-owned independent subsidiary of Scientific Application International Corporation. 

DOD hired the company approximately two years ago to take an impartial look at crisis response throughout the services and suggest improvements.

"Any military installation is a potential threat," said Mr. Kolch. "These terrorists want to hurt people and gain publicity."

It's EAIs motto that it pays to be prepared for the unlikely and unexpected. 

"If something I've taught a military member could save his life or allow him to save someone else, I'm happy," said Mr. Kolch, who teaches people how to assemble and run portable decontamination shelters.

Prior to visiting Dover AFB, he recently taught two firefighters who were involved in 9/11. The firefighters told him they would have appreciated having the advanced system at ground zero. He said listening to their stories about wading through pulverized glass and concrete reinforced his belief in the necessity for the system and program.

He also has a much more personal reason to worry about the military's operational readiness.

"My son is an Air Force lieutenant colonel deployed to Southwest Asia," said Mr. Kolch, who also served for 25 years, and retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Army as a readiness and logistics expert.

"The Guardian Program enhances the fire departments ability to respond effectively if a (CBRNE) event were to take place," said Mr. Kolch. "Plus, it gives the commander and his or her staff better management of their resources."

All totaled the Guardian Program outfitted the base with more than $230,000 worth of equipment, reference material and training. The fire department received three-lane and one-person modesty decontamination shelters, reference material and more. The security forces, explosive ordnance disposal and medical community also received detection and protective equipment. 

Technology took center stage, when the program supplied Dover with enhanced communication capabilities for emergency response.

The fire department is initially charged with command of the site and is responsible to paint a realistic image for leadership about what is happening at the crisis scene. During a crisis, the "fog of war" and communication hurdles are one more element firefighters have to battle. In the past, cell phones were the prime method to tell decision makers what was happening. However, during a disaster, cell phones are often the first method of communication to go.

Now, firefighters have a rugged field lap top to accompany them to the scene.

Additionally, the crisis action team and disaster control group - two core groups composed of leadership and functional specialties that gather to control a situation - also received computers to interface with the on-scene lap top.

Leadership, first responders and follow-on forces can now update and access information placed on all three computers. The new capability ultimately cuts down on status checks and unnecessary communication; thereby, providing crisis members with a more complete picture faster.

"The equipment gives us another piece of the puzzle," said Brian Cullen, 436th Civil Engineer Squadron Battalion chief of Special Operations. "It compliments our current capabilities."

Along with new technology, the company also provided an independent and impartial outside assessment of all aspects of the base's emergency response operations.

"We look at what and how you do things and build on what you already have," said Mr. Kolch. "Not every installation gets the same package."

Dover already had a robust CBRNE and emergency response program in place, according to Mr. Kolch. The base also maintains a giant voice in case of emergencies, which is one of the first things Guardian experts look to upgrade at other installations.

Guardian experts also provided a through review of existing base plans and the wing's exercise program, which prepare personnel to handle crisis and natural disasters.
The analysis will be used to continually improve emergency response procedures and refine the way base agencies interrelate with each other during a crisis.

During the weeklong visit, Guardian experts provided more than 30 functional experts from throughout the base hands-on training to detect CBNRE contaminates.

"Working with the medical group and different agencies on base makes sure we are all one cohesive unit, and we are all on the same page," said Airman 1st Class Joseph Wysocki, 436th CES firefighter. "The program provided real-time training that can help us take care of victims of a crisis, so they can go back home at the end of the day."

Along with hands-on training, Guardian Program managers finish visits to installations with a simulated exercise to test key personnel and emergency responders.
Although the victims in the table top exercise Nov. 7 weren't real, base crisis responders and leadership are aware of how quickly a situation can turn deadly serious.

"The purpose of why we have exercises like this is to open up a discussion where everyone can contribute their thoughts and ideas to create a strong team between leadership, first responders and support agencies - before a crisis occurs," said Col. Chad Manske, 436th Airlift Wing vice commander.

"Planned exercises often seem far-fetched, but anyone who recently responded to the C-5 mishap can tell you pre-planning for what seems like an unlikely scenario helped them safeguard lives and minimize damage during the mishap," Colonel Manske said.

Guardian experts have visited more than 10 Air Force bases this year, as well as Army, Navy and Marine installations. The program also helps military members throughout different career fields develop a baseline understanding of equipment and processes used to operate in an increasingly joint environment.

"The Guardian Program gave us some great tools to enhance and build upon our current capabilities. By far, I think one of the best aspects of the Guardian Program was getting all of our crisis personnel in one room to talk about how all this new equipment integrates into our emergency response program," said Colonel Manske.

Regardless of the topic or scenario discussed during an exercise, Colonel Manske said each experience is important to the wing's readiness because exercises are the practical application of how well people relate to each other to solve unexpected crises.

"Communication is key to saving lives during a crisis!" he said. "The Guardian Program better assists service members here and throughout the DOD, facilitate lateral, upward and downward communication on their installations -- and gives the U.S. military one more weapon to fight our enemies in the global war on terror."