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Pentagon is scene of major exercise

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (July 25, 2003) -- Fire trucks, ambulances and police cars from Arlington, Va., and nearby Fort Meyer sped into the Pentagon’s south parking lot early July 23.

There was no emergency, however. These agencies were there to participate in the Pentagon's chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear exercise called Gallant Fox.

A firefighter from Arlington County, Va., escorts a volunteer victim through a simulated decontamination area in the Pentagon's south parking lot during exercise Gallant Fox on July 24. Gallant Fox is a large-scale chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear-training exercise conducted by the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. The exercise provides training in responding to real-world mass casualty scenarios by various local emergency fire, police, medical and hazardous-material response units. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi.

Within minutes, military and municipal fire teams routed hoses, attached the trucks to the city water supply, and established triage and chemical decontamination stations.

Soon afterward, people in military and civilian dress emerged from the Pentagon -- some wearing gas masks. Many of the 100 "victims" were exercise volunteers from the American Red Cross, said John Jester, the director of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. Their role was to react to a simulated chemical-weapons attack.

“In this exercise, there was an explosion and a truck that released an agent, later determined to be a nerve agent," said Jester. “Victims overcome by the agent were taken through the decontamination area and washed down."

The purpose of the exercise was to allow military and civilian emergency response units to coordinate their actions in a real-world scenario during an actual duty day at the Pentagon.

"This exercise is a culmination of many months of work with Arlington County," said Jester. "We work with them daily. This exercise ensures certain protocols are working.”

According to Jester, the PFPA coordinated with seven agencies to make the exercise flow. Those agencies included fire, emergency medical service and police units from Arlington County; health professionals from the Pentagon's DiLorenzo health clinic; the Virginia State Police; units from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Pentagon building maintenance workers.

New to the exercise were the emergency escape masks and hoods worn by some of the exercise participants.

“This is the first time the masks are being used in an exercise," said Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood. "The emergency escape mask is good for an hour ... to get you to a safe zone.”

The hood and mask combination comes packaged in a kit with a plastic escape suit and gloves. Within the last year, each Pentagon employee received a kit. Additional masks are positioned in public areas around the Pentagon. All Pentagon employees participated in a training class to learn to use the mask.

After the exercise, there was a meeting where participants reviewed exercise performance. The lessons learned will affect future exercises, said Army Col. Armondo Lopez, the director of the PFPA's chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear directorate.

"Those things we have done well, we will continue to practice," said Lopez. "For the things we have not done well, we will continue to emphasize that portion in our exercises."