PMO trains with VRE to sharpen skills

By Cpl. Travis J. Crewdson
Press Chief

‘‘Head down! Hands up!”

The Quantico Special Reaction Team stormed the passenger car of a Virginia Railway Express train. Marines quickly and thoroughly inspected the car from end to end with weapons ready looking for more terrorists to add to the three they already neutralized. When they did not find any, they methodically took control of the by-standers and prepared to remove them from the stationary train.

The exercise ends here and the evaluation process begins.

It is a VRE requirement to perform such exercises at least once annually with one of the local response teams along its railways. During Saturday’s emergency drill at the VRE Crossroads Yard in Fredericksburg, Quantico’s Provost Marshals Office SRT collaborated with personnel from VRE, CSX Transportation System Emergency Response Team, FBI Special Weapons and Tactics Team, Quantico police and fire departments, and representatives from the town of Quantico.

‘‘The goal of the exercises is to evaluate the efficiency of the emergency operations procedures of local responders and of our own crew,” said Sharmila Samarasinghe, manager of VRE transportation services, safety and security. ‘‘We observe how they work and what deficiencies there are.”

Special Agent Jeffrey Crocker, representative of the FBI SWAT team and an evaluator at the drill, explained the importance of these exercises and the unique position of transportation organizations.

‘‘It’s not like a bank, where you know where it is and who is going to respond to a situation,” he said. ‘‘It’s a mobile crisis site and the response team depends on where something happens. The VRE has been great about being proactive with (preparation exercises).”

The drill Saturday was based on a tabletop exercise executed Sept. 16 to see if Quantico responders could work with VRE crew members in securing a situation involving multiple armed terrorists on board a train full of hostages.

‘‘After operating jointly with outside agencies, PMO feels very confident in our ability to react quickly to every situation,” said Capt. William Tomaszek, the Military Police Operations Officer. ‘‘We have set the training standard high with this exercise, but expect our training to continue to be more realistic and more intense with each exercise.”

Quantico military policemen played the role of the terrorist trio and began the drill Saturday by taking control of two train cars and several hostages.

The SRT cleared the cars using a dynamic entry and eliminated the threat while under observation and evaluation by representatives from each participating organization.

‘‘The Marines were awesome,” Crocker said. ‘‘The momentum, aggressiveness and constant security was just great.”

Samarasinghe said the exercise proved a great success and that an after-action report will soon be made available to invested personnel.

‘‘The team did very well,” said SRT commander Staff Sgt. Kenneth Morgan, who has eight years of SRT experience. ‘‘They used sound tactics, controlled the hostages well and neutralized the threat from the hostage takers.”

Morgan said the SRT is a full-time team constantly training and performing scenario drills to ensure that every member of the team makes it back home if a real situation does arise. According to Samarasinghe, this is not the only exercise the VRE holds either. She said their crossroads yard and trains are made available to different response teams for smaller-scale drills almost every other month.

‘‘Working jointly with local law enforcement agencies has only strengthened our front to resolve a possible terrorist situation,” Tomaszek said. ‘‘With reoccurring training and reforming to the standard operating procedures in place, our ability to react to an unclear situation with multiple agencies, has and will continue to improve.”