JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Joint Base Charleston held its first functional Major Accident Response Exercise Aug. 20, 2014, at North Auxiliary Air Field.
This is the first time in nearly 10 years a MARE has been held at North Field.
"Last year's table-top exercise set-up the capability for us to hold a functional MARE," said David Hunt, JB Charleston Deputy Inspector General.
North Field is used for C-17 Globemaster III training and can also be used as an emergency landing strip if aircraft need to land due to in-flight emergencies. The MARE simulated a C-17 in-flight emergency resulting in a simulated crash at North Field.
"We held the exercise to evaluate our capability to respond to such an event," said Capt. David Sustello, JB Charleston Inspector General and exercise planner. "We also evaluated our ability to properly recover personnel and equipment in addition to preserving the site for a safety inspection board to investigate the incident."
North Field is geographically separated from JB Charleston by nearly 70 miles, an hour and a half trip by car, so the fire department located at North Field would serve as first responders in case of an emergency. Once Air Base officials are alerted of a crash, the base's fire department, emergency management and other agencies would make their way to the scene.
"Aside from our base assets, we have a working relationship with Orangeburg County Fire Department and Emergency Management office that helps with augmenting the recovery process in the event of a crash," said Hunt. "Base personnel respond first, but with Orangeburg County services minutes from North Field, we get the extra help when needed."
Orangeburg County emergency agencies participated in the exercise by being Emergency Management and Fire Department role players. Communication between the local community responders and the Air Force was also tested during the exercise.
"During last year's table top exercise, we discovered there was a gap between radio systems the Air Force and civilian responders use," said Hunt. "We purchased a device that now allows the two systems to communicate even though they run on different frequencies."
"The exercise presented me with an understanding of the military structure during this type of event," said Billy Staley, Orangeburg County Director of Emergency Services. "This exercise also gave us the chance to show the military our side of things as well, which will make it very easy to work with one another in the future."
Future plans call for hosting a full-scale MARE at North Field next year with all agencies on base participating.
"With the completion of the table-top and now functional MARE, we are now poised to hold a full-scale exercise," said Hunt. "We have learned what our strengths and weaknesses are from both and are improving each time."
The 628th Air Base Wing, 437th Airlift Wing and Orangeburg County Emergency services participated in the functional MARE.