Preparing for the worst. It's what these men and women are doing in a city that is mangled and torn to shreds. It's called Disaster City and it's one of the premier training facilities of its kind.
"I've never been to a training facility like this," said Staff Sergeant Frank Holdiness.
Staff Sergeant Frank Holdiness is just one of more than 600 who are part of Joint Task Force 71--Thursday is a critical day. But first he must respond to a fictional scenario: A small single engine plane crashes into a stadium filled with thousands of people--spraying a hazardous chemical over the crowd. The building then collapses and people are trapped. How he responds is just one of the tests.
"There are lots of chemicals out there that people can't smell or taste," said Holdiness.
Sealed and suited up tight in the heat of the day to steer clear of nuclear or biological chemicals entering their bodies while simultaneously rescuing victims' trapped and injured. With America as a prime target for terrorist attacks, the Texas National Guard is being more vigilant, proactive and prepared."
"They're all thinking about it, our military and civilian agencies, the "what if's" they're trying not to let their guard down," said Adam Collett, Public Information Officer of Joint Task Force 71.
Holdiness and Collett are part of a homeland response force, known as HRF. Created by the Defense Department, HRF's are a key capability in the National Guard.
They are the first on scene in major chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidences across the country. Their most recent deployment was the industrial plant fire in Waxahachie, near Dallas. These response efforts should not only suppress fear and despair, but help to combat the grim results from war games targeting the U.S. In a real scenario, HRF's are expected to arrive at the scene of a major attack or disaster within six to 12 hours--which is much quicker than the response from today's premier disaster response units.
"The department of defense in 2010 charged the national guard bureau with the job of creating 10 task forces. Basically taking 10 existing National Guard Units and giving them equipment, training and create these teams that will be able to go out after an incident involving a variety of situations, but specializing in incidents that involve chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear material," explained Collett. "They are called out to augment the civilian led response to certain types of incidences."
"Hopefully it doesn't come to this, but we will utilize this and we'll be prepared," said Holdiness.
"These types of incidents have the capacity to impact our citizens here in Texas and even in the Brazos Valley. It's incredibly important that the civilian agencies that lead this effort and our military units to train hard, practice throughout the year so that in the hopefully, unlikely event that an incident like this happens, we're ready to go our there and help save lives and mitigate suffering after these kinds of incidences," added Collett.
A lot of the skills we have here are perishable. Our ropes, our high rescue, breaching techniques, learning new equipment that comes out.
Each HRF is to contain nearly 570 soldiers and airmen, including more than 140 fulltime personnel.