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General Klotz: CAPEX adds to Warren legacy

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command, visited the 90th Space Wing on May 15, to learn among other things, how the wing, 20th Air Force and the command are preparing for the upcoming Capabilities Demonstration Exercise (CAPEX).

CAPEX is a Secretary of Defense-directed exercise, supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, to demonstrate the capabilities of the United States to respond to a nuclear weapons accident and will be hosted at F.E. Warren AFB on June 20-22.

General Klotz said it is significant that Warren was chosen to host the international event, adding it is a testament to the hard work over the past four years developing and honing response skills.

“We have led the way in developing the right tactics, techniques and procedures, and in equipping and training for such an unlikely event,” said General Klotz. “CAPEX is an excellent opportunity to work cooperatively with other federal agencies and local first responders on nuclear safety and security.”

CAPEX is the third of four planned worldwide response demonstrations agreed upon by the NATO-Russia Council. Russia hosted the first demonstration, AVARIYA ’04, in August 2004; the United Kingdom sponsored a similar event, SENATOR ’05, in September 2005; and France will conduct a comparable exercise in 2007.

F.E. Warren will host delegates from 26 NATO-Russia Council member countries visiting to observe the AFSPC Response Task Force (RTF) and the interagency cooperation in response to a nuclear weapons accident.

General Klotz emphasized the command has recently had a lot of activity in standing up the RTF, so Warren was the natural choice to host the event.

“We look forward to continuing to refine our Response Task Force skills through exercises and training,” said Col. Michael Carey, 90th Space Wing commander. “It’s a great feeling to know our leaders have confidence in the wing’s ability to respond to a nuclear weapons accident.”

Colonel Carey said in his mind, there’s no better place than Warren to hold CAPEX.

“It will show the world what I already know,” said Colonel Carey. “We have the best of the best here and turn every challenge into a success.”

In addition to the demonstration, the command’s RTF will be trained during Exercise Comanche Warrior, set for June 15 and 16. General Klotz said he believes the exercise will be an opportunity to hone the skills of the responders and practice the response on a large scale with the other agencies involved.

“It gives the command a chance to implement the lessons we learned from Diligent Warrior and gives us a chance to make sure we’ve got things right before CAPEX,” he said.

General Klotz, who was the first RTF commander while serving as the 20th Air Force commander, said the command has made great strides since the early days of planning for a nuclear weapons accident response, and said the exercise and demonstration in June will show NATO and Russian partners the United States is fully prepared for any challenges a nuclear accident might present.

“We’ve made progress in that we’re now formally recognized as experts,” General Klotz said. “We now have consequence management teams with every convoy, we’re holding annual exercises, and all of our folks are receiving training.”

He added the command has a written instruction giving the RTF responsibility for responding to an accident involving AFSPC assets and the RTF now fits into the National Incident Management Plan.

In addition to continuing to train and refine the RTF processes, General Klotz said a new command and control vehicle for the Consequence Management Team is on the horizon. He said the vehicle is designed to provide far more command and control capability to respond to an event in the field.

The way-ahead for the RTF will be to continue to work with various local, state and federal agencies to improve communication and processes.

“What I would like to see is when these agencies need expertise in these matters, their first thought is to call Air Force Space Command,” General Klotz said.