Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Neptune Response 2009 Increases Contingency Readiness in Europe

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Marc Rockwell-Pate Commander, Navy Region Europe Public Affairs

NAPLES, Italy (NNS) -- Commander, Navy Region Europe (CNRE) hosted its annual training exercise Neptune Response 2009 (NR09) Oct. 22-24 at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples, Italy.

Three of CNRE's four enduring bases took part in the exercise to enhance their capabilities to respond and recover from catastrophic incidents. Naval Station (NS) Rota, Spain, Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella, Sicily, and NSA Souda Bay, Crete, participated in NR09, which was designed to be as realistic as possible.

Though the operational portion of the exercise was at different installations around Europe, CNRE staff members provided direction, intelligence and support at Europe's Regional Operation Center (ROC) in Naples.

Raymond Chesney, CNRE's regional emergency manager, said this exercise is one of the most effective scenario-based training evolutions in the Navy.

"It's something we don't test every day," said Chesney. "But, it is important to do these tests to understand what short falls we might have out there. The most important part of this exercise is that we use it to continue to build and strengthen operational relationships and base communication in order to be fully prepared for a real-life incident."

Chesney added that NR09 tests each base's command-and-control element and how they would communicate up the chain of command. Working through these types of scenarios helps CNRE get the proper operational and administrative support from U.S. Europe Command and CNIC for these types of events.

The exercise consisted of numerous simulated improvised explosive device (IED) and chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) scenarios. These scenarios were conducted by non-state actors whose terrorist attacks were both water and land based.

"This drill was very realistic," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (handling) (AW) Julian Molinar during an interview in Rota. "The drill planners were using flares and smoke grenades to simulate explosions and different color gasses in the air. You can't get any closer to the real thing."

Molinar, a fire-team crew chief at NS Rota, added the drill opened his eyes to the importance of good communication skills because his team and other response teams were working directly with Spanish forces during the exercise.

The new Shore Force Training Center (SFTC) at Naval Base Coronado (NBC) Coronado, Calif., also took part in the exercise, marking the first time SFTC has participated in an exercise. During a phone interview Capt. B.J. Keepers, who directed the SFTC during the exercise, he said the facility provided "state-side" support for CNRE's staff during this training session.

"During this exercise we acted as CNIC's [Commander, Naval Installations Command] Installation Support Center, which is actually located in Washington D.C.," said Keepers, who works as a department head at CNIC. "Our job here [at CNIC] is to provide administrative support by providing manning, training and equipment for shore installations. The training center opened on Oct. 9, and this exercise gave us the perfect opportunity to continue to provide CNIC's culture of training and readiness to the fleet."

NAS Sigonella's fire chief, who helped coordinate scenarios at Sigonella, agreed the exercise was an important training opportunity for everyone involved.

"I think it was a great learning experience for all fire emergency services folks," said Jim LaConte during an interview with the Sigonella public affairs office. "There were a lot of coordination issues that we identified that are going to help us do our job better in the future. I think we need to do more of these types of exercises."