Fort Cavazos heightens readiness with full-scale disaster response exercise

Fort Cavazos holds annual disaster readiness exercise: By Bradley Vaughn
Published: Jul. 11, 2023 at 6:23 PM CDT
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FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — Fort Cavazos first responders put their disaster response capabilities to the test in a full-scale exercise this week, reinforcing their commitment to timely and effective assistance in times of crisis.

The exercise kicked off at 8 a.m. July 11 simulating a two-vehicle accident, causing one of the vehicles to knock over a light pole and power line into a grassy area resulting in a wildland fire near a housing community on the installation. The incident immediately activated a team of experts from across the installation known as members of the Emergency Operations Center.

The exercise response quickly escalated when evaluators had the simulated fire expand into several residences in family housing, forcing a simulated evacuation of housing residents to the post’s Abrams Physical Fitness Center where exercise players had established an Emergency Family Assistance Center.

While role players were at the fitness center, they were treated for heat-related symptoms and attended to by volunteers from the Red Cross. Some of the exercise evacuees were then transported to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center for further care, while others were fed and waited for word as to when they could return to their homes.

In addition, people who had pets were able to register them for care as well.

This exercise, and others like it, help identify potential gaps in the emergency response protocols, ensuring that responses are efficient and effective in real-life situations.

Albert Garcia, EOC operations officer, emphasized the importance of the EOC members’ proactive approach. He highlighted their dedication to establishing a strong working relationship and emphasized the significance of repetitive practice and rehearsal.

According to Garcia, these drills not only create an environment for preparedness but also foster a lasting connection between the EOC and community partners.

“It’s great to do that because we have to establish a working relationship,” Garcia said, “and to do that repetitive practicing and rehearsing allow us to create not only an environment to do this, but also a relationship between us and the community.”

Fire Lieutenant Brett Fontaine, with Fort Cavazos Fire Department, highlighted the collaborative efforts between the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security; Directorate of Emergency Services and various agencies from neighboring Central Texas communities. Those involved were from the Killeen Fire Department, Arcadian Ambulance Service, Temple Emergency Medical Services and Hamilton EMS.

Through this exercise, they aimed to refine their mutual-aid agreement.

“I think being able to work with our other agencies outside of Fort Cavazos coming all together is really great,” Fontaine explained. “We have to have teamwork and camaraderie.”

Expressing gratitude for training missions like the one conducted, James Kubinski, fire chief for KFD, emphasized the significance and commitment to providing the highest level of emergency services.

“When we work seamlessly together, whether they are on post or off post,” Kubinski said, “we know that they are getting the best emergency services that are available to them.”

Pvt. Evan Hayles, an evacuated role player assigned to the III Armored Corps, expressed his appreciation of the support provided to families and civilians during mass casualties.

“I’ve enjoyed interacting with everybody, going to (CRDAMC), seeing the staff there exercise their capabilities and just seeing Fort (Cavazos) as a whole come together and seeing what Fort (Cavazos) is capable of in these mass casualty exercises,” Hayles shared. “It’s good to know that families on (Fort Cavazos), and even civilians around (the installation), who are in these mass casualties’ instances, are taken care of properly.”

Fort Cavazos officials exercise different scenarios each year in the annual force protection exercises.