NAS Pensacola Prepares for Drone Attack

Mass casualty drill aboard NAS Pensacola played out the scenario of a drone dropping chemicals on the base. Photo: WEAR-TV.

Personnel at Naval Air Station Pensacola experienced a worst-case scenario Monday. Fortunately, the terrorist attack was just a drill.

Base leaders developed a complex scenario involving a drone attack with chemical weapons.

NAS Pensacola Executive Officer Commander Shawn Dominguez said, “As drones gather greater capability and they become widespread, everybody’s starting to own one, this is becoming more of a realistic scenario.”

A training team spent two months designing the exercise to cover a variety of objectives and procedures.

CDR Dominguez “The scenario is, a drone comes out on our port operations area, it is dropping some kind of unknown substance.”

When the drill began, the drone flew overhead, and pre-selected “victims” collapsed on the spot. A witness in a nearby building called for security.

The trainers running the drill had to be prepared for the situation to change depending on how the security team responded.

CDR Dominguez described their options: “Are you gonna rush in and save these victims when you’ve just seen something drop from the air or were they gonna stand back and then establish an incident command post a little bit further out. Your first reaction is you want to go in and help people, obviously, but that may not be the right response when you don’t know what you’re dealing with.”

The security officers recognized the danger and held back. They called the fire department, which has more resources for recognizing hazardous materials.

The training team considered chemical, biological, and radioactive elements before choosing a drug known as “Gray Death.”

Installation Mission Readiness Officer Trent Hathaway said “Gray death we learned about, I learned about on Channel 3, I know it’s synthetic heroin, and it’s a big issue for first responders. They’re showing up on scene for individuals that are unconscious, actually going to help them, even just touching their clothing, or touching their skin, or any skin to skin contact, they get infected, too.”

Naval Hospital Pensacola and the Fleet Family Support Center ran related drills at the same time.

The leaders involved will analyze how their troops responded to create a playbook for handling similar situations.

Exercises like this, said CDR Dominguez, are critical.

“For this one” he said, “it’s an integrated training response if you will, so it’s our security department, it’s our fire department, it’s our port operations, it’s everybody on base coming together to try to mitigate a threat.”

The base invited first responders from Escambia County and the City of Pensacola to observe the exercise, and they plan to share lessons learned from the drill. [Click for More]