Exercise shows Minot's ability to protect its people, mission

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The base recently examined its ability to protect its people, mission and resources when the major anti-terrorism exercise Prairie Defense '06 concluded here Sept. 14. 

From Sept. 11 to 14, Minot Air Force Base came under simulated surveillance, infiltration and attack as terrorists targeted the installation. 

"It gave us an excellent opportunity to look at the base, assess its potential vulnerabilities and exploit them in a way that allows the installation to improve the security of our personnel and resources," said Staff Sgt. Chris Swiech, 5th Security Forces Antiterrorism office NCO. 

The exercise scenario called for terrorist and suspicious activity that had been ongoing since Aug. 22 and eventually led up to the exercise execution week. 

"Exercise Prairie Defense gave base emergency-response assets, including fire, medical, explosives ordnance disposal and security units, a chance to respond to events as they unfolded. We also wanted to test the ability of the threat working group, installation battle staff and the emergency operations center to deploy those assets immediately to neutralize the incident with minimal impact," said P.J. Pallotta, 5th Bomb Wing Antiterrorism officer. 

Leadership and first responders were not the only ones involved in the exercise. Being vigilant and reporting suspicious activity is everyone's responsibility to ensure installation security, said Mr. Pallotta. 

Exercise Prairie Defense '06 started with increasing force-protection levels based on exercise intelligence of terrorists targeting the base. 

Over the next two days, the base was saturated with surveillance-detection exercises, food-vulnerability exercises and test of security at the gates and around the perimeter. 

These investigating activities concluded with an attack by a team of exercise terrorists who, among many other disruptive activities, planted an improvised explosive device at the Magic City Gate and posed as base contractors in order to contaminate the base water supply. 

Base command and control elements and first responders sprung into action and took the necessary steps to stabilize the situation and protect people and the mission. Their main challenge involved resource management as many events occurred simultaneously. 

"We have to ensure we practice our emergency response plan, not just once but several times. It can't just sit on a shelf. We have to go out and do it so that we can identify where there are weaknesses. That way we can do it better next time," said Col. Greg Bell, 5th Bomb Wing vice commander. 

Mr. Pallotta said the events practiced are part of the installation's requirement to rehearse plans, physical security measures, terrorist incident response measures and terrorist consequence management. 

"We were able to achieve training and assessment objectives across a broad spectrum of base capabilities. While most areas are working great, we identified a few that need extra attention. Antiterrorism requires constant vigilance and maximum participation. Our goal is to make Minot Air Force Base a hard and unattractive target to those wanting to do us harm," said Mr. Pallotta.
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