USAFE’s Threat Response team – Coming from many locations for one mission

Monica Mendoza
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***If a plane goes down, a suspicious white powder is found in a government building or a natural disaster wreaks havoc on a European community, a group of highly trained disaster response personnel from across U.S. Air Forces in Europe will converge on the scene, forming one team – the Full Spectrum Threat Response Strike Team.

It’s the new way USAFE trains and responds to disasters. Drawing team members from all USAFE installations, the FSTR strike team was formed this year to capitalize on the Air Force’s efficiencies and to standardize the emergency response process across a major command, said Chief Master Sgt. Mike Connors, command FSTR manager.

***image2***“Prior to this, every base responded on its own,” he said. “And the response wasn’t standardized.”

The idea, Chief Connors said, is to analyze a disaster situation and send the right people with the right equipment.

“It is a capability that can be tailored and scaled to the event,” he said.
In March, a team of 24 people spent three weeks, or 180 hours, at the 38th Construction Training Squadron compound to become FSTR-certified. A second training will be in June and the team expects to be fully ready to respond to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear disasters by September. It’s the beginning of what officials expect to be a three-year process and includes a projected $3.8 million budget command-wide for equipment.

The goal is to bring the FSTR strike team members to a higher level of technical competence, Chief Connors said. For example, the team is now trained in treating a disaster site as a crime scene, so that evidence can be properly gathered.

***image3***“It gives USAFE the capability to effectively respond to a full spectrum of threats within the (area of responsibility,)” Chief Connors said.
FSTR strike team does not replace existing emergency response teams like the Civil Engineer chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear team. Rather, the FSTR team includes CBRN-trained team members who are additionally trained and available to respond to a disaster on short notice. And because the FSTR team trains together and follows the same playbook, response will be standard across the command, with the level of training the same for all team members, said Bob Jennings, Command Civil Engineer emergency operations manager.

Tech. Sgt. Mike Messina, USAFE Civil Engineer Readiness NCOIC, with input internally and from outside sources, developed scenarios for the playbook which include core competencies – a list of required skills for response to specific events – that each FSTR strike team member will learn.

“You’ve got to be an absolute expert,” Sergeant Messina said about the skills needed to respond to disasters.

***image4***For example, if there was a disaster near Aviano, their team would call Ramstein, who could send team members and equipment to assist.
“Aviano’s CBRN team would respond,” said Chief Connors. “If it overwhelmed the base’s capability, they would call back to USAFE and request assistance from FSTR (strike team). We would bring additional equipment and personnel to augment their team.”

In the first round of training at Ramstein, the strike team focused on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response. But over the next three years, the team’s training will go beyond CBRN response to include responding to natural disasters, major accidents and assisting with pre-planned events like the World Cup. Future training will include fire, security forces and medical personnel, Mr. Jennings said.

“It’s essentially all hazards,” Mr. Jennings said about FSTR strike team’s future.