PIIHOLO, Maui >> Under a drizzling rain and a cramped tent, a special military team listened to instructions before entering a water reservoir after a mock terrorist attack with a radioactive "dirty bomb."
Military team trainsPort scare shows dangers
on Maui in preparation
for terror attacks
By Gary T. Kubota
Lt. Scott Mohr of the Hawaii Army National Guard reminded team members to be aware of the time they are in a radiation-contaminated area.
GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
"It's really a jumping-off point for more challenging training. It's a steep learning curve." Lt. Col. Stanley Toy, Hawaii Army National Guard
"It's being time-conscious and shielding from the rad," said Mohr, a physician's assistant.
As the United States military prepares for a possible war in Iraq, military and civilian agencies in Hawaii are conducting defense drills in case of a terrorist attack at home. The latest drill was earlier this month and held for the first time on the Valley Isle.
A major group assisting county agencies in the preparation is the Oahu-based Guard's 93rd Civil Support Team (Weapons of Mass Destruction).
"A lot of what we provide, local responders can't do," said team commander Lt. Col. Stanley Toy. "We're really brought in when you can't find what it is and people are dead and dying."
The team was formed in June 2000 after the terrorist bombing at the federal building in Oklahoma City.
A number of exercises have taken place on Oahu, and this year the team has conducted its first drills on the neighbor islands, including Kauai and the Big Island.
The 22-member team arrived on Maui on a C-5 cargo jet with an array of skills and tons of equipment, including satellite communications equipment capable of consulting with the military and with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The team also brought medical equipment that helps identify hazardous substances, including chemical, biological and radioactive agents.
The exercises started with a drill to respond to a mock terrorist attack on the Air Force's satellite-imaging building in Kihei, then responded the next day to an imaginary attack on the water reservoir along the slopes of Haleakala.
Military and civil agencies also responded to an attack at the Kahului Harbor and were sent to assist mock civilian casualties after terrorist bombs exploded at War Memorial Football Stadium in Wailuku.
Several student volunteers from Maui High School acted as stadium victims, and the training also involved the medical staff at Maui Memorial Medical Center.
Toy said his team's role is to support local civilian agencies and provide additional tools to respond to a massive terrorist attack.
County assistant fire chiefs serve as incident commanders coordinating military and civilian assistance, including the police and Red Cross.
"Preparedness is an absolute necessity for all responders," said Teri Andrade, vice chair of disaster emergencies for the Red Cross on Maui.
Andrade said officials with various agencies learn the procedures to follow in helping victims and providing support to workers, including hot meals and shelter.
Civilian agencies also become familiar with safety procedures, such as using safe routes into and out of contaminated areas and making sure a victim has gone through a decontamination shower before medical treatment.
Near a reservoir at the 2,600-foot level of Haleakala, the rain fell in a steady drizzle all morning, disrupting full communications.
Clouds and hills blocked some of the satellite transmissions.
Rain-soaked and working with electronic equipment under a plastic trash bag, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Matt tried several times for more than an hour to dial a military connection through an auxiliary satellite dish.
The primary satellite connected to the military van established a voice and Internet connection but was unable to provide two-way visual contact with the mainland.
In a tent, Capt. Jeff Korando described the results of an initial survey of the reservoir, identifying the location of a terrorist explosive device, a white powder thought to be radioactive and an orange substance gathering in a nearby pool.
Korando said an explosive ordnance unit took care of the bomb, but his team needed to obtain samples of the substances to determine their toxicity levels.
The team was also expected to develop a plan for lessening the contamination.
Korando and other team leaders reviewed safety procedures intended to reduce injuries.
Sgt. 1st Class Linford Ramos told team members that he installed a satellite dish behind the latrine and that no one who wants to remain healthy should step in front of the microwave dish.
"Imagine a microwave oven," he said.
Officials also reminded team members that whenever they move a vehicle in the rocky terrain, they require a soldier acting as a ground guide.
"Safety is the big issue," said Mark Arvidson, a Texas-based 5th Army civilian official who creates the emergency scenarios.
Toy said he was pleased with the cooperation among various agencies on Maui in this first series of exercises and their continued training will help in the event of a massive emergency.
"It's really a jumping-off point for more challenging training," Toy said. "It's a steep learning curve."
BACK TO TOP