Jan 25, 2005 – While many of his fellow Americans busied themselves with holiday preparations, the son of a Christiansted man found himself charged with protecting a vital military munitions storage facility in a hostile environment. He knew immediately that something was up when a group of men approached, asking him questions, scanning the munitions facility behind him and acting a little nervous.
When the men in the group produced weapons and started firing, Army Spec. Andres E. Huerta, son of Vincent Huerta, 105 Estate Ruby, Christiansted, immediately sprang into action to defend the valuable military resources under his protection.
After a brief, but vicious firefight, half of the attackers lay neutralized on the ground with the remainder in custody. Then the leader of the group looked Huerta in the eyes and said, "Nice job, soldier – those were tough defenses."
This ringleader was no Iraqi insurgent and his target wasn't a military encampment in Fallujah. This was an Air Force security forces instructor putting Huerta and the U.S. Northern Command's quick reaction force concept to the test during a recent exercise here at Lackland Air Force Base, in the heart of Texas, right amongst the holiday preparations.
"The day started with us checking our manifest and awaiting our flight to Lackland Air Force Base," explained Huerta. "Then we did guard duty and performed routine security for the compound — doing vehicle and personnel searches."
This was the third in a series of quick reaction exercises designed by U.S. Northern Command to ensure it has the capability to carry out its homeland defense mission by rapidly deploying ground forces throughout the U.S. to respond to terrorist threats on American soil.
The exercise, that took months to plan and train for, but only a day to pull off, had Huerta and his fellow soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas, fly into the area on just a few hours' notice, set up camp, and assist Air Force security at the base in random vehicle searches, as well as conduct base patrols, provide security for an ammunition facility and secure a detention center.
"We prepared for this exercise by going through several briefings and having some of our key leaders attend classes run by individuals from other units," he said. "Our training for this exercise has lasted for over two months."
Huerta and his team finished the exercise confident that they are prepared to defend American soil against terrorist attacks, or from others who mean to do their country harm. The soldiers are quick to voice why these types of exercises are a must in the fight to save lives and protect valuable military assets.
"This exercise is important to homeland security because if any mistakes are made, we'll have the opportunity to correct them and learn from them," Huerta said. "It will help us in preventing similar mistakes in real-world situations."
There are terrorists and other enemies in the world who mean to do harm to American people, facilities and assets, and their targets aren't limited to places like Iraq and Afghanistan. But there are also other people, like Huerta, who are prepared to stand in their way and deter their plans.
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