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Exercise tests first responders
Stewart Guardian 2009 029
A soldier in protective gear checks on one of the exercise's victims. - photo by Photo by Mike Riddle
Fort Stewart conducted exercise “2009 Stewart Guardian” last Wednesday and, according to public affairs spokesman Kevin Larson, the operation went well.
“Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield conducted this exercise to validate our preparedness for emergency responders,” Larson said.
The exercise was to give base officials a barometer of where the installation stood regarding its readiness to deal with a major emergency, such as a domestic terrorist attack.
Dina McKain, who also works in the public affairs office, said this year’s scenario had a deranged former soldier hijacking a small aircraft and forcing the pilot to land it at Fort Stewart. The fictitious assailant then killed the pilot, exited the plane while firing a machine gun and detonated a “dirty bomb.” With the explosion and gunfire, several soldiers were “killed” and more injured. After the initial attack, the plot had the man escape, but he later was detained by law enforcement.
Post officials said this type of domestic terrorism scenario is ideal in that it includes mass casualties, hazardous materials and a deranged person initially escaping.
The exercise was conducted at Wright Army Airfield and included emergency rescue units from both Fort Stewart, Liberty County and Savannah.  
According to John Stanley, director of the exercise, the preparation and training for Stewart Guardian began six months ago. He said there were 20 independent graders accessing the exercise and, in addition, the individual organizations had their own evaluators on scene, too.
Stanley said the exercise actually began Jan. 15 with simulated surveillance activity at a heightened level.
Once the scenario began, the airfield had the look and feel of a real emergency scene with explosions, gunfire and casualties. From the first responder side, the firefighters, EMS and law enforcement officers treated the staged disaster as if it were real, using protective gear, providing first aid to victims and establishing security lines outside the base in Flemington.
Stanley said the goal of the training is to evaluate responders who deal with large-scale emergencies and offer feedback on how they can improve. He said the exercise is designed to strengthen the partnerships between Fort Stewart and local agencies and enhance their abilities to work together.
“An operation like this takes months of preparation and it is as close as you can get to a live-fire drill,” Stanley said.
According to Larson, some of the other emergency agencies involved in the training were the Fort Stewart Fire Department, Liberty County Emergency Management Agency, Liberty County Sheriff’s Department, Hinesville Police Department, Hinesville Fire Department, Liberty Regional Medical Center, the Homeland Security Office from Savannah, Chatham County Emergency Management Agency, Savannah Metro Police, Savannah Fire Department, FEMA and the FBI.
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