By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
April 26, 2007 – Thousands of active-duty and National Guard servicemembers will take part in a two-week, Defense Department-sponsored nationwide emergency preparedness and response exercise that kicks off April 30, a senior department official said here yesterday. A major focus of Operation Ardent Sentry - Northern Edge 2007 will be to test crisis-response coordination between federally controlled military forces and National Guard units that come under the command of state governors, Peter F. Verga, acting assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, told the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service at the Pentagon.
The exercise, directed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is slated to end May 18. It is co-sponsored by U.S. Northern Command and also includes participation by the U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Department of Homeland Security and the Canadian armed forces, according to NORTHCOM documents.
This year's Ardent Sentry-Northern Edge exercise, the biggest yet, will feature a nuclear-weapon explosion scenario that will involve deployment of more than 2,000 active-duty troops and almost 1,000 Guard members to Camp Atterbury and the Muscatatuck Urban Training Area in Indiana, Verga said. The National Guard's series of training events known as Vigilant Guard, he noted, will be incorporated as part of the overall Ardent Sentry exercise.
The Indiana portion of the exercise, he said, will test emergency-response capabilities involving the fictitious detonation of a 10-kiloton nuclear device in an urban area.
"National Guard soldiers ... will always be the first military forces to respond to an emergency because of their proximity, will then be reinforced by the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives consequence-management response force in the active-duty force, " Verga explained.
The Indiana sites provide "a very realistic environment that'll allow the soldiers to operate in an urban environment and see how they'll have to respond to that kind of emergency," Verga said.
There are a total of 15 exercise planning scenarios, Verga said. Another scenario held off the Alaskan coast, he noted, will feature a maritime situation.
"There will be a ship with a 'suspicious cargo' that's going to need to be intercepted," Verga said. The Canadian navy, he added, will participate in that scenario and some other simulated incidents during the two-week-long exercise.
An air-defense exercise will feature Canadian military participation as well, Verga said. Canada's armed forces partner with NORAD in the defense of North America.
Additionally, the exercise features a hurricane scenario that will be staged in the northeastern United States, Verga said. Guardsmen from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and New York will participate in this part of the exercise, he said, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Fighting the global war against terrorism is the U.S. military's main mission, but being ready to respond to potential homeland contingencies also is important, Verga said.
"We also have to be prepared, at all times, to respond to an emergency at home," he said.
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