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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014
Command Post Tampa

Altman: Guide details first responders’ role if nuke was detonated

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A few year ago, I took part in a table-top exercise with folks from a wide array of government and military agencies to see what the response would be to a complex series of events ultimately leading to a jihadi attack on MacDill Air Force Base.

I don’t remember all the details, but the bottom line was the fictitious incident left a large number of people dead. A few months ago, I received an email from a former weapons of mass destruction hunter laying out what would happen if such an attack involved an improvised nuclear device.

In June, the departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency published the Health and Safety Planning Guide For Protecting First Responders Following A Nuclear Detonation.

The guide makes no mention of specific threats and there is no indication that anything is brewing. But the details of what would happen if jihadis (or anyone else for that matter) set off such a device are chilling.

The guide states that its mission “is to provide first response leadership and trainers with specific guidance and recommendations to protect emergency first responders from the effects and impacts of a terrorist detonation of a 10-kiloton improvised nuclear device.”

Such a device is “built from components of a stolen weapon or from scratch using nuclear material that could produce nuclear explosions,” according to the guide.

The guide is blunt in what could happen if something like that is ever detonated.

“Emergency responders ... need to be prepared to face a scene that is unlike any other they may have encountered,” the guide states. “There are likely to be tens or hundreds of thousands of victims with serious traumatic injuries including severe burns, blindness, deafness, amputations, radiation sickness, etc. There will be widespread panic as survivors attempt to escape from the terror of unseen radiation and the fear of further terrorist acts. Rescue workers will face the additional risk of being overwhelmed by the public.”

Bad actors packing an improvised explosive device don’t even have to get onto MacDill to turn the place into a nuclear waste zone, according to damage calculations made in the report, which makes no specific geographic references (and to those who might be upset by this exercise, this is nothing the bad actors haven’t already thought about for more than a decade).

Access to the base by emergency responders would probably be impossible, via land anyway, for days, because all the entry points are within the half-mile “severe damage zone.”

Buildings within that zone would be “completely destroyed, radiation prevents entry into the area, lifesaving is not likely,” according to the guide, which states that deep rubble around ground zero would make any roads impassible. A mile into the base, there would be “significant building damage and rubble, downed utility poles, overturned vehicles, fires, many serious injuries,” according to the guide, which says that this is the area with “the greatest lifesaving opportunities.”

While reinforced buildings, like the headquarters of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, would likely remain intact, the affects of this on the place that coordinates military operations in most of the Middle East and Southwest Asia, and special operations all over the globe, would be devastating.

So too would the aftermath in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Plant City, Brandon and Bradenton, according to the calculations in the guide. The dangerous fallout zone, as far as 20 miles from ground zero, would cause radiation sickness.

“Actions taken within the (dangerous fallout) zone must be justified, optimized and planned; and should be restricted to time-sensitive, mission-critical activities such as rescuing identified victims,” according to the guide.

In an ideal world, there would never be a need to refer to the guide by anyone other than reporters. But this world is far from ideal and I know a few people for whom such reading is required.

****

For years they risked their lives on the front lines, and many suffered wounds, injuries and illnesses.

Now they have a new mission.

A group of 17 veterans are taking part in a pilot program to help combat child sexual exploitation and human trafficking, according to Socom.

The program, called the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child Rescue Corps, is a partnership between Socom, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the National Association to Protect Children. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee is providing support.

The first HEROS Corps class is undergoing training now which is scheduled to be completed by the middle of October, said Lt. Cmdr. Li Cohen, a Socom spokeswoman. After that, they will undergo a year-long internship in Homeland Security Investigations’ field offices, with the ultimate goal to lead them to a career in law enforcement.

“The goal of this initiative is to give our nation’s military veterans a second chance to be heroes,” Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers said in a statement.

“Through this program, they will train for a new battlefield, her at home, as they help to identify and rescue victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation.”

The internship program is the fourth step of Socom’s Care Coalition-led efforts to reintegrate troops into civilian life, according to Army Lt. Col. Kim Moros, the Care Coalition’s chief of transition.

“This HEROES Corps program is really interesting,” said Moros. “It is an opportunity for them to work on a team again and get training. They all have excellent skills. It is a win-win situation for everyone because they have skills someone straight out of college doesn’t have.”

****

Representatives from Socom will join the services, as well as the Veterans Administration, in the search for minority contractors at the 2013 Tampa Bay Minority Enterprise Development Week (MEDWeek) Conference, Oct. 2-5 at the MainSail Suites and Conference Center, 5108 Eisenhower Blvd., Tampa.

The event focuses on minority-owned businesses but is open it to all business owners, according to Angela Mitchell, a Socom spokeswoman.

Socom, Mitchell said, “was the first federal agency to join this event and have partnered with this event in order to educate those businesses that may be able to support Socom’s mission with their capabilities.”

Most businesses did not know Socom “has a major presence” in the area,” said Mitchell.

“Some attendees have received contracts with the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base,” she said. “There are some local small businesses in the Tampa Bay areas that have received contracts with the command that have participated/attended this event. Because of the sensitivity of the command, we don’t release the names of these businesses.”

For more information, go to http://www.medcorp-tb.org.

****

The Pentagon announced the deaths of seven troops last week in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lt. Cmdr. Landon L. Jones, 35, of Lompoc, Calif., and Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan S. Gibson, 32, of Aurora, Ore., died Sept. 22, as a result of an MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter crash while operating in the central Red Sea. Both sailors were assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Six at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, Calif.

Staff Sgt. Liam J. Nevins, 32, of Denver, Colo., assigned to 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, Watkins, Colo., Staff Sgt. Timothy R. McGill, 30, of Ramsey, N.J., assigned to 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, Middletown, R.I. and Spc. Joshua J. Strickland, 23, of Woodstock, Ga., assigned to Group Support Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., died Sept. 21, at Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered

Spc. James T. Wickliffchacin, 22, of Edmond, Okla., died Sept. 20 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his dismounted patrol during combat operations in Pul-E-Alam, Afghanistan on Aug. 12. He was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, Fort Stewart, Ga.

Sgt. William D. Brown III, 44, of Franklin, N.C., died Sept. 19, in Laghman Province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat incident. The soldier’s death is under investigation. Brown was assigned to the 94th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Polk, La.

There have now been 2,266 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation’s longest war.

haltman@tamaptrib.com

(813) 259-7629

@haltman

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