“Help us”: the message scrawled across a bedsheet with spray-paint hangs out a windows at the Muscatatuck Urban Traning Center near North Vernon. Although not so typical a scene in southern Indiana, here it is a familiar one; select Indiana National Guard units are participating in Vibrant Response, the largest annual homeland security exercise in the country. The training helps prepare U.S. military, homeland security personnel and first responders to attend in the event of a large-scale emergency.
Approximately 8,000 military and civilian personnel from 27 different states are taking part this year. The site boasts about 1,000 acres of land staged to present a simulated terrorist attack in the United States.
Training includes search and rescue missions, simulated decontamination operations, medical training and rubble pile extractions, among other events. Civilian volunteers go through scenario discussions and get dressed in makeup before being sent out to various areas on-site to act as victims.
Senator Joe Donnelly, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, traveled to Muscatatuck on Monday to observe the Vibrant Response exercise. Sen. Donnelly says Hoosiers can take great pride in the facility, which provides crucial preparation to personnel from all over the country.
“For almost any kind of incident that could occur in our country, we are prepared for it,” Sen. Donnelly says. “What we’re doing here is making our nation safer, our state safer, and it’s being done right here in Indiana.”
Homeland Security and Defense Exercise Planner Paul Condon says the field training Vibrant Response offers is critical, and facilities like Muscatatuck offer unmatched resources
“The folks in Indiana have been such great hosts, opening [themselves] to us, and this facility is unlike anywhere else in the country,” Condon says. “It totally has unique capabilities, and you’re just limited by your imagination.”
“Between Camp Atterbury and Mascatatuck, the ability to host the soldiers, the facilities to conduct the training and the resources to do that, make this truly unique. We’ll continue to come here as long as we can.”
Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are largely over, downsizing means plans to close down both Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center by 2015, which would pose a threat to the annual simulation and training event. Sen. Donnelly said his visit was, in part, to see if the center’s mission could be at all extended.
“I came down to see the drills that are going on, to talk to the people here to see how we can be of assistance in making Muscatatuck footprint even stronger,” Donnelly says. “Muscatatuck is such an important part of southern Indiana and our whole state of Indiana, but what Muscatatuck is is an important part of our nation’s defense.”
The Vibrant Response exercises will continue until August 17.