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Campbell holds successful full-scale terror simulation

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While Anti-Terrorism Awareness Month may be over, first responders from Fort Campbell and surrounding communities proved Sept. 21 that the lessons learned in August would be put to good use in the event of the unthinkable.

In the early morning hours, a series of simulated terror incidents took place at strategic locations across the installation, including vehicle-borne IEDs, active shooters and hostage crises.

"This is an Army requirement; it is not unique to Fort Campbell," explained exercise coordinator Bill Fedak, director of the Battle Command Training Center. "Army headquarters issues a number of training requirements throughout the year, and this is a yearly full-scale exercise requirement."

As part of the installation's training fulfillment, 11 agencies under garrison were on hand to provide support and respond to the various scenarios as they occurred. Police and emergency services from surrounding counties such as Montgomery, Trigg and Steward arrived to provide assistance to the military responders.

"We're providing support as well as testing the capabilities of Fort Campbell and the local authorities within the community," said Capt. Nestor Colindres, commander of the 744th Ordnance Company. "For the longest time, Fort Campbell and the immediate vicinities have worked together as a team to make sure we diffuse situations like this."

Colindres was one of many responders on site for a vehicle-borne IED/hostage exercise at Sabre Army Heliport.

"Essentially, we're just trying to be efficient and make sure people are on the same page," said Colindres. "In the process, we can better save lives and be prepared for future incidents. Hopefully they don't arise, but if they do, we'll be ready."

Part of the readiness, according to Colindres, is the concept of maintaining a level of calm professionalism in the face of imminent danger.

"It's not so much that we're numb or immune; it still affects us," explained Colindres. "We're trained to be professional and to deal with this as efficiently as possible. I think that Fort Campbell, and the Army as a whole, does a good job of making sure we're ready for scenarios that are as severe as this one."

By adding responders from local communities to the equation, that notion can be passed on to others, creating a united front in the face of domestic threats.

"These situations can be scary, but through training with our local agencies, we minimize that as much as we can," said Lt. Col. Lonny McDonald, director of emergency services at Fort Campbell. "You can never take away the scary feeling, but when you train and become really fluent with these tasks, it's much more manageable. We can ensure the community's safety."

According to McDonald, communication was a huge focal point during Wednesday's exercises, and all involved parties pulled their weight.

"Many times, in these incidents, communication is not as good as it should be," said McDonald. "However, in this incident, communication with local agencies has gone extremely well, which is a great blessing."

While the full-scale exercise was for the training of emergency personnel, McDonald was quick to point out that the responsibility of awareness falls on all citizens in the military and outlying communities.

"The local community is a very big part of what we do," said McDonald. "Where we get most of our reports is from people who actually call and report suspicious activity to us."

McDonald encourages people to remain constantly aware of their surroundings. If something doesn't seem quite right, local authorities should always be contacted.

"You never know. Maybe somebody needs help," said McDonald. "We can always help someone. That is why we're here."

Article by Heather Clark, Fort Campbell Courier staff