Sheppard tests disease containment and force protection plans
More than 50 patients went through the processing line during a base-wide disease containment exercise at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Oct. 20. The exercise evaluated both base and community capabilities to detect and contain a biological attack. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Mike Litteken)
Exercise Exercise Exercise: Sheppard tests disease containment and force protection plans

by Debi Smith
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

10/21/2010 - Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas -- Security threat, release of an unknown substance, emergency quarantine, moulage and increased force threat conditions became buzzwords in the first twenty-four hours of a three-day exercise initated Oct. 19 at Sheppard.

As the exercise unfolded, a few instances of flu-like symptoms spiked to seven active duty and 16 family members, alerting local medical facilities and base security officials of a potential biological attack upon base personnel.

The Installation Exercise Program Office team created the scenario of a disgruntled employee covertly disbursing an unknown substance at a chapel service. The IEPO then poised to evaluate the ability and capabilities of Sheppard members and community medical officials to diagnose and contain the possible terrorist act of a biological weapon.

The base theatre was utilized to moulage 25 exercise patients who developed high fevers, chills, headaches, coughs and a bluish skin discoloration by the second day. A total of 80 patients went through a processing line.

Part of the disease containment plan tests the 82nd Medical Group pharmacy's ability to distribute medication.

"The POD or point of dispensing is a key element to prevent illness," said Maj. Melissa Pammer, 82nd MDG Pharmacy flight commander. "The mass prophylaxis plan measures our ability to get medication to that second population who might have interacted with the sick. The sick identify themselves, get treated or quarantined but we have to stop the spread of disease with anyone they may have come in contact with."

The POD's effectiveness comes with the autonomy that includes the legal orders, patient administration teams, medication tracking, registration and medical providers needed to successfully curtail a disease outbreak.

Base medical operations rely on the preventative and diagnostic resources of the local community. A tabletop exercise became a necessary aspect of the disease containment plan evaluation, ensuring community partners the opportunity to participate without physically processing base personnel through downtown agencies during the three-day exercise.

Area representatives from the county emergency management, public health, United Regional Health Care System and regional medical operations center evaluated communication and checklist coordination during the tabletop exercise with senior base leadership. The base elementary school principal, city public communication officer and city emergency response coordinator provided additional conduits of information for base and community families.

Threat communicated. Checklists implemented. Force protection conditions executed.

82nd Security Forces squadron members apprehended the lone suspect as he attempted to enter the base Oct. 21 after an exhaustive investigation revealed the exercise chemicals, bomb-making materials, maps of Sheppard and a suicide note in his apartment.

Team Sheppard successfully exercised eight emergency, contingency, medical and security plans Oct. 19 - 21.

Upcoming exercises will include an active shooter scenario and severe weather conditions.

With the summer rotation of base personnel, it's important for exercise checklists to be a top priority during newcomer orientation.

"Review checklists upon arrival," advises Master Sgt. Sean O'Neil, 82 Training Wing Exercise Evaluation Team superintendent. "During an exercise, play it to 100 percent. It's the only way to learn, figure out the gaps and be prepared for the real thing."