Magazine article National Defense

Homeland Defenders Lack Proper Training

Magazine article National Defense

Homeland Defenders Lack Proper Training

Article excerpt

The United States should better prepare civilian participants in the war on terrorism

The war on terrorism is not only fought by U.S. military forces overseas, but also by a significant number of "homeland defenders" in this country They are dressed in police blue, firefighters turnouts, emergency medics' whites, doctor's surgical gown or, in some cases, a suit and tie.

The military services receive extensive training in all aspects of warfare. That is not necessarily the case with civilian homeland defenders. The enemy here at home is no less elusive as those in the Afghan desert, possibly more so. They are among us. We may have encountered them unknowingly during our daily routines, perhaps sitting next to us in the subway, beside us on the bus, at the table next to us in our favorite restaurant, or even on the same bench at the little league game. They may have been polite, courteous and unassuming.

They seek any opportunity to exploit the openness of our free society and have the advantage of striking at times and places of their own choosing.

If anyone doubts the extent to which potential adversaries have studied our military strengths and weaknesses, one need only read "Unrestricted Warfare," by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui.

The United States should train and equip homeland defenders like an army and leverage the lessons learned from conflicts in the past.

The police and fire academies are already doing an outstanding job. The actions of the first-responder community during the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the gut-wrenching events of September 11 are proof of their professionalism and training.

However, they are still not resourced properly.

Only a fraction of the billions of dollars appropriated for defending against terrorism has reached the first responders. The lions share has been shortstopped by government agencies that have contributed little to either training or preparedness at the local level.

The nation's armed forces have combat training centers. The homeland defenders need those capabilities as well--to train fire and police chiefs, public utilities directors, chiefs of surgery, town mayors and those who may be responsible for supporting incident commanders. Whether they are from a major metropolitan area or a small town, these are front-line troops. They will be the first to grapple with an outbreak of disease or the carnage of a man-made disaster. What they do in the first hours of a terrorist incident may mean the difference between containment or a domino effect.

They need a place where they can train.

The military adheres to the tried and true adage, "the more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war." Combat training centers are specifically designed with this in mind. Battle captains receive hands-on training in large-scale, realistic environments. These are environments wrought with uncertainty, where mockups can be configured to replicate any type of incident in a wide variety of settings. They provide training which, unlike tabletop exercises, taxes the physical and emotional limits of all participants.

It is one thing for emergency responders, particularly incident commanders, to make decisions in a pristine classroom setting. It's quite another to have to make those same decisions while sleepdeprived, in a noisy, hot (or cold) disaster scene-complete with broken glass, exposed rod iron, broken water pipes, intermittent communications and other distractions. …

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