By Spc. Tarell J. Bilbo, State Public Affairs Office
NEW ORLEANS – The Louisiana National Guard’s 1st Air Assault Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, conducted its annual anti-terrorism validation exercise in accordance with Department of Defense policy at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Hammond, La., Nov. 20.
As part of the facility’s anti-terrorism plan, numerous local, state and federal agencies participated in the exercise including: the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office and Special Operation Units, the Hammond Police Department and Special Operation Unit, the Hammond Fire Department, the Louisiana State Police and Acadian Ambulance.
“It’s very important to include these agencies because in today’s world, you don’t always know where the threat is,” said Lt. Col. John P. Plunkett, commander of the AASF. “There could be a lot of reasons why we have these threats and you want to make sure people are prepared for every contingency.”
As part of the simulated exercise, the members of these specialized units faced an unknown amount of active shooters and assailants. They also handled various emergency situations including a simulated vehicle explosion and casualties within the facility.
“These types of scenarios are necessary for training,” said Master Trooper Greg Marchand, public information officer for Troop L of the Louisiana State Police. “The more you train and the more you do it, the calmer you will be when it actually hits.”
Sgt. Nicole M. DeGeorge, a flight medic with the Detachment 1, D Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment, of St. Rose, La., was one of the responding medics on the scene to attend to the simulated gunshot wound victims and found the exercise to be very well executed.
“It helps us to train as we fight,” said DeGeorge. “These types of situations seem to be becoming more frequent and this helps us to be prepared.”
The exercise was a proactive effort intended to incorporate, establish, and standardize protocols of local first responding agencies in the event a man-made disaster, natural disaster, or security threat occurs at or around the Hammond Airport.
The primary focus is to save lives, protect property, and ensure the safety of all personnel who work and/or reside at the airport facilities.
“Besides fire drills, this is the new reality,” added Plunkett. “I think this type of training is something that has to be implemented in your safeguards as a campus.”
After the simulations concluded, all of the participants gathered in a classroom inside of the 244th Readiness Center where the training was considered a resounding success by all those in attendance.
“We had different civilian and National Guard agencies and you couldn’t tell that we weren’t all with the same agency, other than the uniform,” remarked Marchand.