The morning of July 16, 2011, Stuttgart military community members lined up for a chance to get covered in blood — fake blood, that is.
They were part of the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart annual emergency preparedness exercise, called Stallion Shake, held for the first time on Panzer Kaserne.
In this year’s scenario, active shooters opened fire in the Panzer Behavioral Health Clinic and then detonated an explosive device in Böblingen Elementary School, which started a fire — hence the need for volunteers to sustain a myriad of “injuries,” from gunshot wounds to broken glass embedded in their skin.
The Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (German Red Cross) made the injuries look real by putting wax on volunteers’ skin, embedding plastic shards or wax bones, and pouring on the red paint.
“We have to make it realistic,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Shawn Zamudio, while having multiple bullet wounds painted on his chest and back.
One of the main goals of the exercise is to help German first responders become comfortable performing their duties on a military installation in a lifelike scenario.
“We practice the way we fight. The exercise provided a realistic opportunity not only for the garrison to practice its actions, but also for the troop diversion to practice, as well as [practice] with our host nation.” said Col. Carl D. Bird, USAG Stuttgart commander.
We practice the way we fight. The exercise provided a realistic opportunity not only for the garrison to practice its actions, but also for the troop diversion to practice, as well as [practice] with our host nation.
Col. Carl D. Bird
USAG Stuttgart commander
“With the active shooter incidents that occur, both CONUS and OCONUS, not only to our American forces but also to the civilian population, this active shooter scenario is very timely for us,” he added.
For the first time, the exercise involved German emergency response teams from Böblingen.
“We rely fully on the support we have from the host nation,” said Ron Kirkemo, USAG Stuttgart Emergency Management Office director and exercise director.
“We know how to work together now to manage the situation,” he added.
To help make the exercise as “real” as possible, 63 volunteers acted as victims or active shooters — the largest amount of volunteers in a Stallion Shake to date, Kirkemo said.
In addition, the garrison Fire Prevention Office filled the school hallways with smoke using smoke machines and scattered shredded paper to look like debris.
Once the exercise started, German police were called in to help clear the buildings, and the German Red Cross arrived to help treat victims.
“The MPs and Polizei did a great job of clearing each building and going directly to the threat, and neutralizing the threat,” Kirkemo said.
After the buildings were cleared, the Böblingen Feuerwehr (fire department) arrived to simulate rescuing victims from the school’s third floor using aerial ladders.
A total of 320 first responders were on site, along with 40 observers from German and American emergency response organizations.
“It’s the first time we’ve done [an exercise] with Böblingen, and it went a lot better than I thought it would go,” said Master Sgt. Gary Cryder, USAG Stuttgart provost sergeant. “We are working through the language barriers and getting familiar with faces. It’s an opportunity for us to meet these guys.”
It was also a chance for Germans to get to know how their American counterparts work, said Rudi Denzer, Böblingen police chief and district supervisor.
“We have different rules … different ways to execute [tasks],” Denzer said. “We have to … train to talk together [and] check out who’s the leader.”
Although the exercise was not without its hiccups, Denzer said facing the challenges helped both forces see what they might face in a real situation.
“There were some small problems with communication, but that’s the reason for this exercise,” he added. “We want to test how it works. Altogether it was very good.”
In recent years, Stallion Shake has included many different scenarios, from detonations, car bombs and a contaminated water supply to a biological hazard in the mail room.
For this exercise, Kirkemo said he chose the active shooter scenario because USAG Stuttgart is home to two prominent American military headquarters: U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command.
“It gave us the opportunity to train for an active shooter situation … to train both the Military Police and the Polizei,” Kirkemo said.
All USAG Stuttgart directorates were involved in Stallion Shake, from the planning stages to posting community alerts on the garrison Facebook website during the exercise. The Böblingen county crisis management, THW, also helped with planning, Kirkemo said.
“It’s a combined effort,” he said. “Everybody out here contributes to the safety of our organization.”
New protection measures
Aside from exercises like Stallion Shake, the Emergency Management Office also aims to keep USAG Stuttgart protected by bringing in new technologies.
In the next few months, Giant Voice technology will be installed on Patch and Kelley Barracks. Giant Voice is a loudspeaker system that plays a recorded emergency message for the entire installation to hear.
In addition, the garrison will implement a new telephone and network alerting system by the end of the year, he added.