Camp Zama, Japanese first responders conduct 2016 full-scale exercise
CAMP ZAMA, Japan - U.S. Army Garrison Japan conducted its annual full-scale exercise Sept. 12-16 on Camp Zama.
Lt. Col Barry Winnegan, director of emergency services for USAG Japan, said the exercise involved various units and organizations that teamed up with local Japanese first responders, participating in emergency training scenarios to ensure the installation is ready to respond in the event of a real-life emergency or crisis.
"We cannot do what we do without our Japanese partners," said Winnegan.
"They've been instrumental in making this exercise a success, and we definitely appreciate their support throughout this week."
One scenario involved two helicopters carrying hazardous material, crashing into each other at Kastner Airfield's heliport.
Camp Zama and local Japanese first responders - including firefighters, police and medical teams - arrived on scene to assist the injured and take control of the hazardous material.
"This is a monumental exercise of two nations coming together to figure out how to work together to care for our wounded when we have emergencies," said Lt. Col. Karen Rutherford, nurse practitioner for U.S. Army Medical Department Activities-Japan, whose role was a doctor in the scenario.
Rutherford said the language barrier was definitely a challenge because they only had one translator on the site, which is why these exercises are so important.
"We need to understand, between our two countries, how to control the chaos that comes with real emergencies like this scenario," she said.
Another scenario consisted of an active shooter at Zama American High School.
In the scenario, the shooter shot several of the students, which resulted in a school lock down until the shooter was apprehended by military police, followed by an evacuation of the casualties.
First responders came to provide services to the injured victims in the scenario played by students of ZAHS' theater arts program.
Capt. Brittany Bradey, chief of police assigned to USAG Japan, also acknowledged the language barriers between Americans and Japanese during the exercise, but she said their expertise made conducting the exercise easier.
"Everyone knowing their job and knowing what to do... before and when they get on the ground helps us a lot," she said. "That's crucial and helps us out as first responders."
One Japanese employee who works on Camp Zama said he enjoyed the challenging experience.
Kazuo Makino, deputy fire chief at Camp Zama's Fire and Emergency Services, said it was nice to experience the exchange between the two cultures during the exercise to get a better understanding of how Americans think.
Several Soldiers and Civilians operated out of the Emergency Operations Center, located in the Garrison's headquarters building, using a new system called WebEOC that provides incident management capabilities.
The system allowed team members to input and track the latest information for the various scenarios happening around the installation throughout the week.
The units and organizations, including the Directorate of Emergency Services, were also evaluated by representatives from U.S. Army Pacific Command.
Winnegan said he was pleased with the full-scale exercise because it helps to strengthen the United States' partnership with Japan.
"When there is a real-life emergency, Americans and Japanese can respond swiftly, smoothly, and be successful at it.
"It's all a part of the plan to ensure the readiness of our first responders and the overall safety our community," he said.