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129th Airmen participate in full-scale local exercise

An HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 129th Rescue Wing hovers over the USNS Algol as it hoists down pararescueman Tech. Sgt. Michael Bendle and a federal agent during a full-scale local exercise at Alameda Point, Calif. April 17. (U.S. Army photo by CW3 Jon-Nolan Paresa)

An HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 129th Rescue Wing hovers over the USNS Algol as it hoists down pararescueman Tech. Sgt. Michael Bendle and a federal agent during a full-scale local exercise at Alameda Point, Calif. April 17. (U.S. Army photo by CW3 Jon-Nolan Paresa)

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- On a clear spring day with San Francisco set as the backdrop, an HH-60G Pave Hawk hovered over the USNS Algol at Alameda Point, Calif.

Tech. Sgt. Michael Bendle, a 129th Rescue Wing pararescueman of the 131st Rescue Squadron, grabbed federal agents and guardsmen in the helicopter one-by-one to drop them off on to the deck of the ship as part of a scenario that simulated the potential use of a radiological dispersal device or nuclear weapon.

129th Rescue Wing personnel participated April 16-20 in BAYEX 2008, a full-scale exercise designed to test the ability of Oakland, California, and federal agencies to conduct a coordinated response to a major emergency. Field and support personnel from the nearly two dozen participating agencies tested their abilities to share intelligence and respond to three scenarios.

According to the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, scenarios included terrorism-generated chemical, explosives, and radiological events. It also included one terrorism-related BART derailment, and a maritime interdiction operation against a U.S. Maritime Administration Ready Reserve Fleet ship (USNS Algol) that was used as a platform for a fictitious containerized cargo ship.

"The Air Force and Air National Guard implemented the Air Force Incident Management System, a method of response that is the equivalent to that of civilian agencies," said Master Sgt. Kkoby Griffin, 129th Emergency Management Program Manager. "We needed an opportunity to implement the new process and the BAYEX was a perfect opportunity."

The wing's Emergency Operations Center, or EOC, was activated once the exercise commenced. The exercise gave full-time wing personnel an opportunity to iron out emergency response procedures and put interagency coordination into practice.

"We were able to perform the response piece, which was the request by OES,and we were able to recall and deploy personnel while completing the required paperwork for the state," Sergeant Griffin said. "This exercise allowed us to pull all the pieces together and identify our shortfalls."

Wing medical personnel also functioned as role players and exercise observers during the rail derailment and terrorist attack scenarios.

"All the opportunities for experience in observation and operations with civilian first responders is extremely valuable to us, as we take all the information we learn and use it in our planning for future responses," said Capt. Brett Bruderer, 129th Medical Group administrative officer and BAYEX 2008 participant. "The type of data we were able to gather assists us with seamlessly integrating with our civilian counterparts, and prepares us for when the need for medical assistance from the Air National Guard arises."