Training exercise aims to improve emergency response

Members of the Koninklijke Marechaussee (Royal Marechaussee or KMAR) discuss their next actions during a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device training exercise on USAG Benelux-Brunssum, Sept. 7, 2022. The mock emergency brought together the KMAR Heerlen Brigade, USAG Benelux-Brunssum emergency services and installation gate guards in order to test their joint response efforts. (U.S. Army photo by Sandra Wilson, USAG Benelux Public Affairs) (Sandra Wilson)

USAG BENELUX – BRUNSSUM, Netherlands – U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Brunssum’s emergency response team partnered with the installation gate guards and local police for an early morning vehicle-born improvised explosive device training exercise here on Sept. 7, 2022.

Through the exercise, the garrison emergency response team, Dutch Ministry of Defense (DMOD) contracted gate guards, and Koninklijke Marechaussee (Royal Marechaussee or KMAR) Heerlen Brigade aimed to improve their joint response efforts to potential threats on the installation.

“This is not very often that we get to practice,” said Dutch Capt. Charlotte Schoonbroodt, KMAR operation team leader.

Schoonbroodt stressed the importance of testing communication protocols both internally and between the different response agencies. Adding multiple outside agencies complicated the situation, and practicing scenarios with each other helped build their joint capabilities.

During the exercise, a passenger pulled up to the gate and, upon the request of the guards, refused to open his trunk for the inspection.

“They were very unhappy with the trunk not opening and immediately focused in on the vehicle,” said Spc. Giovanni Oliveri, 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, Bravo Company. “They identified a possible bomb and immediately handcuffed me.”

The gate guards promptly redirected traffic once the vehicle bomb threat was detected.

“The gate guards didn’t know (about the exercise),” said Cpl. Cj Klimas, U.S. Army military police operations non-commissioned officer.

The surprise factor was an integral part of the exercise so that the guards’ gut reactions could be measured. In order to make sure they weren’t tipped off to the exercise by the presence of installation emergency management personnel, a Soldier from a different unit was selected to play the role of the threat.

Staff Sgt. Lauryn Miramontes, MP operations non-commissioned officer-in-charge, was impressed by the DMOD guards’ quick response.

“They did a good job controlling the scene,” said Miramontes, “spacing the cars to allow for turning around, quickly identifying the out-of-place wire under the hood and immediately arresting the suspect.”

USAG Benelux – Brunssum MPs were on the scene from the start, working alongside the DMOD guards.

“We want to build the relationship between the military police and the gate guards,” said Miramontes.

John Hopper, USAG Benelux emergency manager, assessed the scene and saw some room for improvement.

“My question is, who is in charge?” asked Hopper. “You’re Incident Commander: you stay and you control the scene.”

With so many responders involved in an incident, it is vital, Hopper explained, to have someone who gives direction and assigns duties to everyone. As tasks are assigned, effective control of the scene must happen quickly in order to minimize the threat.

As the suspect was taken off the scene, a KMAR bomb squad scout assessed the vehicle from a distance to make note of any threat indicators – including the size of package and whether there were any wires, a cell phone, or a clock.

“If it looks like a real (bomb), then the Explosive Ordnance Division bomb squad is called,” said Nicolaas de Jager, USAG Benelux – Brunssum Chief, Defense Biometric Identification System.

This time, no further emergency personnel were needed.

While the exercise was short, the inspectors considered it an invaluable opportunity to test the installation’s response times and inter-agency coordination.

“It’s seeing how they respond,” said Nino Antonacci, USAG Benelux – Brunssum safety officer. “I don’t care if there are mistakes—it helps us to see where we need to improve.”

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Information vetted by the Veteran X Team.


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