The Delaware National Guard participated in a state-wide special focus exercise known as Operation HIGHBALL July 9th through 12th. The event took place at the Amtrak Maintenance Facilities in Bear and DNG’s River Road Training Site in New Castle, Del.
Operation HIGHBALL is an all-hazards event based on local and state resources. It’s intent is to train on the coordination between civilian, state, regional and federal partners to encourage joint operability. More than 300 personnel from 24 different civilian, state and federal agencies and four states, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, along with Washington, D.C., participated in the exercise.
“It was amazing to see all the pieces (after a year of planning) come together and work”, said Capt. Corissa Gott, project officer for Operation HIGHBALL. “The support provided was phenomenal.”
The Delaware National Guard was able to adapt and overcome some obstacles for as smooth as an operation as possible, stated Gott.
The exercise provides realistic joint training and evaluation opportunities for both the Army and Air National Guard Drill Status Guardsmen in units that may be called upon to support civilian authorities at the tactical and operational level in a domestic operation.
“Being able to train in a real-world environment and being able to provide that realism, it is definitely a plus,” said West Virginia National Guard Sgt. 1st Class William Hasty, observer controller trainer assigned to Army Interagency Education Center.
Day one of the exercise began with a simulated, coordinated cyber attack of unknown origin on the AMTRAK station causing a collision between a passenger and cargo train carrying toxic industrial chemicals with widespread chaos ensuing. The following two days showed the training units dealing with mass-casualty events that have sprung up statewide with a focus on structural collapse and the effects of the toxic industrial chemicals released due to the derailment.
“Operation HIGHBALL is the guardsman’s opportunity to do what the National Guard’s designed to do, which is to help on the homefront,” said West Virginia National Guard Lt. Col. Justin Butcher, observer controller trainer assigned to Army Interagency Education Center. “These are the guys coming out to save American lives when bad things happen.”
Brig. Gen. Walter Sturek, Delaware National Guard’s dual-status commander, stressed the importance of the relationship building that takes place during this type of training is invaluable.
“This is one of the exercises that helps us form relationships,” Sturek said. “Delaware sends a lot of soldiers out to support other states in time of need. We may be the state in need at some point.”