San Diego Terror Drills

Title: Chemical Terrorist Attack Simulated At Camp Pendleton
August 25, 2005

Several hundred Marines, base firefighters and police and U.S. Navy personnel simulated a chemical terrorist attack Thursday morning as part of an annual drill. The only real casualty was a wallet.

The drill, called Vector West 05, began late Wednesday with a simulated warning to Camp Pendleton military police of potential terrorist activity in the area, Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Nathan Braden said.

Security levels were increased in some parts of the base and traffic barricades were erected. Then, Thursday morning, a civilian bus carrying unknown occupants was reported to have driven through the San Luis Rey Gate onto the base and then exploded.

"Somehow they got through," Braden said, describing the drill's scenario. "Now we are potentially dealing with some type of explosive and a chemical agent. There are injured and possibly a contaminate in the air."

Part of the exercise, said base commander Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert, is dealing with complex but incomplete information. Emergency crews are often confronted with unknown factors when arriving at the scene of a disaster, whether it is manmade or natural. He said part of the exercise was to see how people evaluate the problem and then respond.

"You can't always do what comes as human nature and take care of the injured and dying," he said.

As he spoke, behind him, Navy personnel pretending to be wounded shouted for help from a bus parked in the street. One sailor hung out the back door, an apparent bombing victim. Farther up the road, three sailors limped through a spray of water as a firefighter shouted instructions to them through a bullhorn.

The trio were hosed down by firefighters and eventually treated for simulated wounds before being taken to a hospital for further decontamination. Meanwhile, the people in the bus continued to plea for aid.

"Please, somebody help us," shouted a woman from the bus. "We're dying in here. Help us."

Since the bus in Wednesday's drill was carrying an unknown substance, the bomb squad and hazardous material team had to suit up and prepare a decontamination unit for themselves, said Camp Pendleton Fire Chief Tim Hoover.

"I realize it looks like a slow process, but it is a slow process. It's not a good thing, but they (the pretend victims) have to wait," Hoover said. "We don't want firefighters to be victims also."

He said that at a terrorism drill at Qualcomm Stadium after the 9/11 attacks, many disaster workers were called "dead" by drill organizers because of terrorist booby traps.

Once at the hospital, the make-believe victims were greeted by the hospital's Decontamination Incident Response Team. The team's members then soaked down the men again and took them into a tented area, where they were scrubbed with brushes and basic dish soap.

"Most warfare agents are oil-based and can be washed off with a mild dishwasher detergent," team leader Lt. Cmdr. Paul Barfknecht said, adding that 5-7 minutes of scrubbing are usually sufficient to remove any contamination.

Afterward, the person would be tested by a "chemical sniffer" to see if more cleaning was needed. Only after a person is deemed clear of contamination will they be taken into the hospital for treatment.

Barfknecht said there's generally enough time for such precautions.

"Most people who survive to this point after a chemical attack will make it for another five minutes," Barfknecht said.

One of the ersatz victims, Navy Corpsman Linh Dang, didn't expect he would be hosed down and had left his wallet and cell phone in his pocket.

Too late.

"All my pictures and receipts and cash were pretty much soaked down," he said later, "but at least Wendy's took my money" (Leatherneck, 2005).

Title: Golden Phoenix 08
July 7, 2008
San Diego County (PDF)

Operation Golden Phoenix 08 is a four-day training event that will allow local, state and federal agencies to join other partners in a simulated response to a mock bio-terrorism attack. The lead agency for Golden Phoenix 08 is U.S. Customs and Border Protection. County of San Diego, City of San Diego and Marine Aircraft Group-46 (Marine Forces Reserve) also have leading roles in this event. The goal is to allow participating agencies to cooperatively practice command, communication and logistical skills used in the response to natural disasters and other emergencies.

July 21, 2008
Preliminary Government Agency Preparation

July 22, 2008
Customs and Border Protection, San Diego Sector and Marine Aircraft Group-46 (Marine Forces Reserve) in conjunction with federal, non-government organizations and industry partners will perform a series of operational experiments aimed to examine challenges faced during a multi-agency humanitarian aid response to a disaster.

Marine Corps personnel will simulate a humanitarian relief response for a location outside the continental United States. Visuals will include aviation operations, vehicle and personnel searches, perimeter security, interoperable communications experiments, and logistical support efforts for non-governmental organizations.

July 23, 2008

San Diego Police Department will practice traffic and crowd control measures around each hospital. Hospital personnel will practice broad scale emergency medical response efforts at each location. Decontamination protocols to be tested at UCSD Hillcrest campus. Marine Corps personnel (non-uniform) involved as mock victims at each location.

UC San Diego Medical Center- Thornton Hospital, 9300 Campus Point Dr., La Jolla
Law enforcement agencies will practice security and crowd management, in preparation for a major public health crisis and an influx of patients to UC San Diego Medical Center. Beginning at 7 a.m. at Hillcrest and 8 a.m. at Thornton, visitors to UC San Diego Medical Center will be questioned, briefly, by SDPD at a checkpoint, and directed to appropriate areas. Marines acting as patients will either be treated for their “injuries” or washed down at a decontamination station set up outside, near the Emergency Department. Emergency personnel will be available to explain what is happening and how this training will help in the event of a real emergency.

Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, 9888 Genesee Ave., La Jolla, at the Emergency Room
At approximately 8 a.m., two H-46 military helicopters will land on the helipad at the rear of the hospital, dispatching two dozen law enforcement officers dressed in full decontamination gear. The officers will proceed to the main traffic intersection at the hospital just off of Genesee Avenue, where they will practice traffic and crowd control measures. The San Diego Fire Department will also practice “wash downs” of victims “contaminated” with bio-terrorism materials. Scripps La Jolla will also activate its disaster plan and communication system to evaluate the readiness of its emergency preparedness program.

Spokespeople from the major participants will be available for interviews at Scripps La Jolla. B-roll from the helicopter flight will be available through the Marine Corps (San Diego County, 2008).

Title: Terror Attack Response Exercises At Calif Ports
May 18, 2010

Federal and state authorities are conducting a series of anti-terrorism training exercises this week at ports throughout California.

The two days of simulations beginning Tuesday include an attack on a container ship at the Port of Oakland and a bomb to be located in San Francisco Bay by sea mammals trained by the Navy.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger started the annual training event in 2004 to improve homeland security and disaster preparedness. This year, more than 3,000 federal, state and local responders are focusing on counterterrorism response at California ports.

Officials say there will be simulated attacks at the ports of Oakland, San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Redwood City and Sacramento, as well as California State University, San Marcos (Newsmax, 2010).

Title: Local Man Plays Key Role In Regional Anti-Terrorism Exercise
October 15, 2010
Valley News

A Lake Elsinore man who recently returned from military reserve duty in Afghanistan played a key role in a nationwide counterterrorism security exercise conducted last week.

Nico Melendez, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, helped head communications efforts at rail stations in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas as part of a nationwide effort dubbed Operation RAIL SAFE.

"This gives us an opportunity to collaborate with other security professionals," Melendez said on Oct. 8 as the exercise was unfolding. "But this is not in response to any particular threat or incident."

He said the exercise touched on the jurisdictions of 16 cities throughout the region and involved about 25 personnel from various agencies.

The effort, which was conducted during the morning and evening commutes, brought together TSA and Amtrak personnel, along with law enforcement officers from federal, state, local, rail and transit police agencies, Melendez said.

The security officers were deployed at selected passenger rail and transit stations to practice counterterrorism and incident-response capabilities, Melendez said.

Many passengers noticed an increased presence of federal and local Advertisement agencies in some rail and transit stations during the exercise.

Operation RAIL SAFE – the acronym stands for Regional Alliance Including Local, State and Federal Efforts – is a coordinated effort involving activities such as heightened station patrols, increased security presence aboard trains, explosives detection canine sweeps and random passenger bag inspections at unannounced locations, Melendez said.

RAIL SAFE is part of a routine effort by rail and transit partners across the nation to flexibly exercise resources and coordination, Melendez said.

Melendez might be better known locally as the husband of Lake Elsinore’s mayor than for his military or federal government service. Nico and Melissa Melendez each served in active duty with the Navy for about 10 years, and met during an official function at the Pearl Harbor Memorial site in Hawaii. The couple has five children. The family moved to Lake Elsinore about seven years ago.

Nico has spent the past nine years in the Navy Reserve. He returned from Afghanistan earlier this year following a nearly nine-month deployment there as a Navy reserve lieutenant commander (Valley News, 2010).

Title: Warning: Navy's National Terror Drill May Cause San Diego Traffic Woes
March 17, 2012
SD Reader

The Navy's national "Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield" anti-terrorism exercises, set to begin Monday, may mean traffic tie-ups in Coroando and at other bases and facilities around the region.

According to a Facebook post by the public affairs office of Naval Base Coronado:

"Measures have been taken to minimize disruptions to normal base and station operations, but there may be times when the exercise causes increased traffic around bases or delays in base access.

"Area residents may also see increased security activity associated with the exercise.

"Updates and information addressing potential impacts to base services and operations will be coming out prior to the Exercise."

"The Navy will be working this year with other military and local, state, and federal agencies to enhance the training scenarios."

According to an AP report: "In the San Diego area, Navy officials have said this year's exercise will involve the Red Cross, the Marines, and city homeland security officials to provide additional realism."

Updates on possible road closures and other disruptions will be available on Facebook, the post says (SD Reader, 2012).

Title: NAS North Island Conducts Anti-Terrorism Exercise
March 22, 2012

Thursday, March 22nd, annual training and readiness scenarios were on display at NAS North Island as Exercise Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield was held. The exercise involves devising and executing a different threat to each naval base in the nation.

As Naval Base Coronado Commander Capt. Yancy Lindsey explained to media members present to cover the exercise, "What you will see today is something that could happen. It's not the detection, but how we respond. One of the most important parts of the exercise is determining what went right and what went wrong at the local and national levels. This scenario is challenging and realistic."

The North Island portion of the exercise was devised by NAB Coronado Training and Readiness Officer Dave Busby. It started at 9 a.m., with the cruiser USS Princeton sailing in the San Diego Bay and being 'attacked' by a speedboat filled with five terrorists. According to Lindsey, the cruiser's participation in the exercise, "Was a normal ship movement which was made part of the scenario. It's cool to have a ship as part of this."

As the scenario unfolded, the speedboat was grounded by an armed harbor security patrol boat, which forced the "home grown, violent extremists" to land their vessel on the shore, just below the NASNI's real-life recycling center. The five terrorists became two active shooters in the recycling center, with one additional shooter encamped in another building across the street.

To a civilian observer, the action looked realistic. Gun shots were fired on the USS Princeton that could be heard from the pier. After the speed boat landed and the terrorists disembarked, an improvised explosive device was detonated, which created a large explosive sound, followed by a mushroom cloud that hovered over the boat. From the base's security perspective, the goal was for the appropriate base personnel to respond in real time.

Lending realism to the event was Combat Training Coordinator Brian Howe of the firm Strategic Operations. The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Stu Segall Productions, one of the largest independent television and movie studios in the U.S. "We provide hyper-realistic training," said Howe, a retired member of the military. "They call us in and tell us what they would like to see. We help them set up the scenario. We provide the next generation of tactical training."

Part of the scenario was a wounded terrorist, in full faux bloody makeup, who spent the better part of half an hour writhing and moaning on the ground in close proximity to the fighting at the recycling center. Howe estimated that the makeup applied to the wounded terrorist took between 30 minutes and an hour to apply. Howe had an interesting morning, as he piloted the terrorist speedboat that attacked the USS Princeton and landed the vessel on-shore. Then he spent the next hour answering questions from the media about the exercise.

After the terrorists were neutralized, base ambulances arrived to take care of the injured. The wounded terrorist, as an example, had a tourniquet applied to his arm, was placed on a gurney and carted away in the ambulance.

According to Brian O'Rourke from the Public Affairs Office at Navy Region Southwest, all bases are tasked annually to hold a media day, so the exercise served a dual purpose. Providing some context to other training scenarios used in the region, O'Rourke said that last year's exercise at NAB San Diego included a swimmer who attached a bomb to a ship, but was detected by dolphins in the water.

The media photo-op involved a bomb being detonated that was placed there by a second swimmer. The resulting 'explosion' wasn't overly impressive, hence the addition of the good folks from Strategic Operations so they could produce a bigger, more realistic explosive device.

This year's NAB San Diego training exercise revolved around a disgruntled worker who turned into an active shooter near the base commissary.

A press release on Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield provided some insight as to the scope of the exercise. The release said in part, "The Navy will be working this year with other military and local, state and federal agencies to enhance the training scenarios. The Marine Corps, Coast Guard, City of San Diego Office of Homeland Security, the Port of San Diego, San Diego Police Department and the Red Cross are just some of the organizations participating."

Capt. Lindsey and Naval Base Coronado Executive Officer Capt. Gary Mayes were both active participants in the training exercise, assessing the threat to the base and making decisions as to whether or not to restrict access to NAS North Island. Lindsey said of the exercises that concluded Saturday, March 24th, "It's a chance for us to work on our tactics, techniques and procedures” (Army-Technology, 2012).

Title: Navy To Hold Loud Anti-Terrorism Exercise
August 27, 2012
UT San Diego

If you visit San Diego's waterfront on Tuesday or Wednesday, you might hear loud noises and see unusual boating activity. The Navy plans to stage Citadel Project, an anti-terrorism and force protection exercise that will last from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. The exercise is meant to better train the military to protect the 60 warships stationed in San Diego. The Navy is giving out few details about the exercise, but officials say people might hear gunfire. The exercise will take place in many spots in San Diego Bay, including some on Coronado and the Silver Strand, the Navy says (UT San Diego, 2012).

Title: North Island to Be Part of Anti-Terrorism Exercise Friday
August 30, 2012
Coronado Patch

  Naval Base Coronado is participating in an anti-terrorism and force protection exercise Friday.

The Navy will use realistic simulations and special effects to add to the authenticity of the training experience. This will involve noise and activity on and near Naval Air Station North Island's piers.

Residents and workers near North Island and across San Diego Bay might see or hear unusual or surprising activity Friday (Coronado Patch, 2012).

Title: San Diego Counter-Terrorism Summit Will Feature ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ Simulation
September 19, 2012
NY Daily News

The undead will walk the earth next month in San Diego.

Along with mock terror attack exercises and disaster response drills, an anti-terrorism summit in San Diego will feature an undead twist: a zombie apocalypse training scenario.

HALO security corp. is commissioning Hollywood-worthy zombies to participate in its five-day Counter-Terrorism Summit, to be held in late October and early November on a 44-acre island in the city's Mission Bay section.

The company's brass is keeping mum about the ghoulish details, but said it will involve dozens of bloodthirsty flesh-eaters battling emergency teams and rescuers in an extreme disaster scenario.

"We've decided to throw a whimsical spin on a very well-respected training exercise," HALO chief Brad Barker, the brains behind the summit, told FOX News.

"They're going to look like the walking dead," he added. "It's going to be pretty scary looking."

More than 1,000 cops, soldiers, security workers and government authorities attend the annual conference, which provides training through lifelike demonstrations, exercises, and lectures, according to the Army Times.

Barker said the living dead element was to add a little bit of fun - the second day of the conference is Halloween -- but also simulate the chaos that would occur in the event of a terror attack or natural disaster.

"What you've got is chaos, mass casualties and a whole lot of confusion," he told FOX News. "What we're looking to do is to recreate the chaos."

The undead have been en vogue for the past year, with groups from the Centers for Disease Control to the Homeland Security Department issuing cheeky warnings about what to do in the event of a zombie takeover.

Two cannibal attacks in Florida and Maryland over the summer stoked fears that a zombie apocalypse was upon us, prompting the CDC to make it clear that the walking dead didn't exist (NY Daily News, 2012).

Title: Massive Counter-Terrorism Drill Held In San Diego
October 31, 2012
ABC 57 News

  A massive high tech counter terrorism drill was held along the San Diego Coast.

Weapons, demonstrations and undersea robotics were on display at the annual counter-terrorism summit.

Security personnel played out scenarios that can become realistic situations.

"It gives them a chance to try the technology in a real-world environment and really learn how to work together between fire and police," said David Copenhaven, SeaBotix.

The summit is about showcasing technology aimed at keeping first responders safe when under attack (ABC 57 News, 2012).

Title: Realistic Drill Held As Part Of Counter-Terrorism Summit
October 31, 2012
ABC 10 News

A massive high-tech counter-terrorism drill was held along the San Diego coast on Tuesday.

Weapons demonstrations and undersea robotics were on display at the annual HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit for security personnel.

Paradise Point in Mission Bay was also transformed for a realistic drill in which a scenario played out where Navy SEALS were ordered into a makeshift village to rescue a downed pilot.

The conference also brings together a manufacturer with a potential buyer, which is especially true for the San Diego-based SeaBotix.

SeaBotix produces a wide range of undersea unmanned vehicles, which the Los Angeles County Fire and Rescue Department appeared to be very interested in.

"It gives them a chance to try the technology in a real-world environment and really learn how to work together between fire and police," said David Copenhaven, who is with SeaBotix.

The summit is about showcasing technology aimed at keeping first responders safe. For example, one company developed a replacement part that prevents live ammunition from ever being used in training.

The HALO Summit runs all week (ABC 10 News, 2012).