Ohio National Guard News

Ohio Guard participates in multi-state homeland security exercise

Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Douglas L. Melvin
52nd Civil Support Team

GALLIPOLIS, Ohio—Most people who hear the word “viper” think about a venomous snake or maybe a fast car. However, to more than 300 law enforcement and military personnel from Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, the acronym “VIPR” has a different meaning.

The Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response, or “VIPR” exercise was conducted June 16, 2010, and involved more than a 100-mile stretch of the Ohio River Valley region. The VIPR team concept was developed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to augment local law enforcement agencies, providing an increased visible deterrent force for all modes of transportation for homeland security.

Law Enforcement agencies from Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, as well as members of the Ohio National Guard’s 52nd Civil Support Team (Weapons of Mass Destruction) and 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Battalion participated in the exercise.

Ohio Guard members teamed up with agencies from the Ohio State Highway Patrol-Special Response Team (SRT), Columbus Fire Bomb Squad and the TSA. In all, 53 agencies swept through the region, familiarizing themselves with the area’s critical industrial infrastructure and developed interagency response tactics in the event of a terrorist attack. The exercise centered on critical infrastructures and transportation terminals that experts believe to be targeted sites for terrorist group planning and attacks.

“VIPR” team members used helicopters, emergency vehicles, reconnaissance aircraft-long range camera systems and Coast Guard patrol boats and watercraft to reconnoiter the area and respond to simulated emergencies.

“The 52nd took talking about interagency response, to actually doing, putting boots on the ground,” said Capt. Bill Logan, operations officer for the 52nd. “Our capability was greatly enhanced and facilitated by using rotary wing assets (UH-60 Blackhawks) from the 1-137th to get our strike team to the incident site in a hurry.”

Although not a new concept for military operations, the use of aviation assets to deploy personnel and equipment to a suspected Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Explosive, Weapons of Mass Destruction (CBRNE/WMD) incident response sites was a first.

The VIPR interagency exercise developed and greatly improved joint operations between the 52nd, SRT, bomb squad and other emergency response agencies in the region.

Soldiers from the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Battalion, stand by at a make shift landing zone June 16, 2010, awaiting VIPR insertion teams to complete pre-board personnel and equipment inspections. The make shift landing zone was located near the “VIPR” response staging area for the exercise at a highway rest area near Gallipolis Ohio. (Ohio National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Melvin) VIPR response team personnel receive a pre-flight operation order and safety brief by Lt. Steve Rosta, commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Special Response Team during a June 16 multi-state and -agency homeland security exercise. The exercise scenario involved suspected terrorists operating in the area which was detected by VIPR aerial surveillance and involved Ohio National Guard civil support and aviation units. (Ohio National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Melvin) Exercise observer and controller, Capt. Alison Albers, deputy commander of the 52nd Civil Support Team (WMD), discusses tactical procedures and observations made during a multi-state and -agency homeland security exercise with a Columbus bomb xquad technician. Personnel from the two organizations worked in teams to assess suspected WMD devices and determine the best course of action to render the device safe. (Ohio National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Melvin)