Soldiers went through a drill to prepare for possible nuclear terror attacks. (June 13, 2011 / WRDW-TV)
Monday, June 13, 2011 / News 12 at 6 o'Clock
MCCORMICK/BARNWELL, S.C. -- A terrorist attack can happen anytime, anywhere. It took us by surprise almost ten years ago, and we don't want it to happen again. That's why the military tries to make sure we're prepared, and now they're ready to roll as soon as the phone rings.
Here's the scenario: A nuclear explosion in McCormick leaves civilians contaminated with radiation.
"There's a 2.5 kiloton bomb that went off," 108th chemical company commander Barry Duncan said.
That same hypothetical bomb has people separated from their families in Aiken.
Now it's just a drill, but exercises like these keep soldiers on their toes and ready for anything.
"These [training exercises] are important to protect and provide aid to civilians in emergency situations," Duncan said.
That's what they were doing; providing aid to civilians in an emergency situation they hope never happens.
"These are Americans, and what we're doing is helping Americans," Deputy Commander Mike Krell said.
The people getting aid in McCormick is just the face of this exercise. The food, water, fuel, etc. has to come from somewhere. It comes from Barnwell.
"Anything like that, that our forces would be responding to, we provide all the food, fuel, and life support that would be needed to operate it," 218th Support Battalion Commander Larry Peeples said.
They do more than that: They are responsible for communications, monitoring supply routes, fixing vehicles, and even purifying water. Soldiers say all those things are essential, so why are they so many miles away from McCormick?
"It gives us enough standoff," Peeples said, "but a quick enough response that Barnwell is the ideal location."
"If something bad were to happen," Krell explained, "earthquake or whatever it may be, the terrain dictates where we can go."
In this case, a bomb exploded near the Savannah River. McCormick and Barnwell are clear of the affected areas, so responders set up in McCormick, and the support battalion set up in Barnwell.
Even though they set up away from affected areas, it's not easy taking care of so many people. The military trains for civilians to be scared, shocked, and even unruly.
"We train for the fight," soldier Amy Harde said.
That's why these soldiers want to make sure they're prepared in case they have to do this for real. If they do have to do this for real, soldiers could actually set up in both McCormick and Barnwell. If they had to do so, soldiers say it's likely they'd be taking care of civilians from Augusta, or even Atlanta.
They're prepared to take on those numbers. The support complex in Barnwell could serve 27,000 meals a day.