Joint Task Force 71 trains in 'Urban Shield'

Story by Sgt. Josiah Pugh
Contributing Writers: Sgt. Adrian Shelton and Spc. Devin Giles
100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment 

AUSTIN, Texas - Joint Task Force 71 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) soldiers and airmen trained alongside civilian agencies from across Central Texas to better prepare themselves to respond to real-world, large-scale disasters as part of the exercise “Urban Shield,” Dec. 1-2, 2012.

The exercise was spread across three locations: Camp Swift, in Bastrop County, the Travis County Expo Center and the Govalle Water Treatment Plant, both in Austin. A variety of scenarios were simulated during the two-day event, including: hostage situations, SWAT and EMS integration, a high school sniper attack, and a high security courtroom takeover. 

“The goal of this training is to successfully support our civilian agencies, while responding and executing our mission under the most realistic training scenario possible,” said Army Col. Lee Schnell, commander of JTF-71 (MEB). “We are treating this exercise as a real incident.”

Service members assigned to JTF-71 (MEB) responded to two separate events in the scenario. Soldiers of the 836th Engineering Company and airmen of the 149th and 136th Medical Groups, respectively, simulated extracting casualties from collapsed structures and trapped vehicles. Within the scenario, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tammy Owens led a search and extraction team which successfully rescued a man from inside a trapped vehicle in 40 minutes. This was 20 minutes faster than the training standard. 

“We worked together very well and were able to complete the mission in an efficient and safe manner,” said Owens. “I’m very proud of our team’s effort and performance.” 

Soldiers and airmen of 436th Technical Decontamination and 436th Chemical Company, respectively, responded to a simulated explosion at the Travis County Expo Center. In this scenario, service members decontaminated civilians from possible radiation exposure. Several decontamination stations were set up to reduce exposure to simulated hazardous materials. Hundreds of casualties—volunteers from the Austin community—were washed down and inspected during the event.

"We were on site within six hours and can successfully sustain our operation for up to 72 consecutive hours," said Army Pfc. Zach Sams, a member of the 436th Technical Decontamination Team. "That is our mission and goal for all training exercises." 

According to JTF-71 (MEB) leadership, the goal of Operation Urban Shield was to ensure Texas National forces are ready to respond to any state disaster with their engineering, aviation, security transportation, airfield operations, communications, and logistical assets.

“Every training event is a little different and allows us to work through various scenarios that could happen during a response effort,” Owens said. “Throughout these exercises we have been able to collect each experience and build off that for the future and to grow as a unit.”

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