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COUNTER-TERRORIST EXERCISE AT HERZO ARTILLERY BASE


In the early 1980s, USEUCOM J-2 had the overall responsibility for responding to a terrorist situation involving US forces in Europe.  When a terrorist incident occurred, a number of actions were initiated.  The whole process began with a report from a US installation that such an incident had occurred.  The US installation was also responsible for taking other actions, as well.

 USEUCOM J-3 was responsible for periodically conducting no-notice tests of the response system.  These included testing of response by all levels of the system, beginning at the installation level.  To this end, J-3 would create a terrorist situation in the area of responsibility of the installation to be tested using volunteers from units far removed from this installation to prevent information leaks. 
 Since the J-2 counter-terrorist people kept very close tabs on the J-3 people responsible for these tests and got suspicious when one of them went on TDY, the J-3 people usually had to take annual leave when they went out to set up the tests.  J-3’s usual methodology was to describe the desired test situation in broad terms and leave it up to the terrorist role-players to plan how to create this  situation.

 In the early 80s (can’t remember the exact year) J-3 desired to test Herzo’s terrorist response capability.  To this end, the 18th MI Bn (Interrogation) in Munich was approached to see if they could provide role-players who could believably portray German terrorists.  At the time, the European Detachment of ASA’s TAREX (Target Exploitation) Program was attached to the 18th.  One of the desired qualifications for TAREX Representatives (TRs) at that time was the ability to portray indigenous persons when necessary, so the J-3 officer contacted the TAREX Det, where I was NCOIC of its Munich Team.

 The situation was explained to us and the Det Operations NCO, another TR, and I eagerly volunteered, especially after being told we would be given USEUCOM letters of authority to grow beards, so we would look more like terrorists.  The general situation was that we were to hijack a bus load of GI hostage role-players (who were only told that they were volunteering to be placed in a “high-stress” situation).  We would then release a hostage with a list of our demands to be presented at the nearest military installation (Herzo Base).  This would activate the terrorist response system.  The J-3 officer would go along as an exercise controller to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.  All the other details were left up to us.

 Our detachment had an unmarked sedan, so we decided that the surest way to stop a bus load of GIs was to present them with a “damsel in distress,” trying to deal with a broken-down car.  We recruited two such “damsels,” who were expert German linguists from the 18th, since we had no female personnel in the Det.  We were given over a month of planning time, so our beards would have a chance to grow.

 Although we were on plainclothes status, we were known in Munich to be military.  We presented an odd sight as we went to work each day in the 66th MI Gp HQ with our lengthening facial hair!  I was president of the Munich German-American Volksmarsch Club and our annual volksmarsch was being held during this time frame.  I had invited the post commander, BG Harry Hunzecker, to help hand out the group awards.  As the CG of AAFES Europe, the general’s nickname was “Hamburger Harry.”  His aide-de-camp’s nickname was “Hamburger’s Helper.”  On seeing me, “Hamburger Harry” told his ADC to “make sure Sergeant Rogers gets a shave as soon as he comes off leave.”  “Hamburger’s Helper” told me later that he had to give the general a quick idiot lesson about MI and some of the more unusual things that MI people got into.

 Several days before the terrorist incident was to occur, the five of us drove up to the Herzo area and booked into a Gasthaus a couple of villages away.  We reconned the route the bus was to take and selected a location with a brush-covered bank next to the road.  Just before the bus was scheduled to come by, we positioned our sedan with the “damsels” at this point.  The men took cover in the brush.  A soon as the bus stopped and the driver opened the door, whoever was the closest would jump onto the bus with the others right behind and capture it.  Armed with AK-47s and shouting at the hostages in German, we easily commandeered the vehicle.

 The bus driver had been told that, as soon as “something” happened he was to feign mechanical difficulties and drive the bus into a near-by wooded area where there was a parking place.  From here we, now revealed as the dreaded “14th of April Movement,” selected a “hostage” and instructed him in broken English to take the sedan to Herzo Base and present our list of demands: transportation to Munich, freedom for our colleagues who were in Stadelheim Prison, a million Deutsche Mark, and a plane to take us to Libya.  The exercise controller also went along to ensure that the Staff Duty Officer at Herzo knew this was an exercise and to evaluate his response to the situation.

 A soon as the bus was parked, I carried out one of the free-play items that we were encouraged to invent. Before leaving Munich, I had prepared a number of Cracker Jack boxes by filling them with sand (for weight), wrapping them in foil and red tape, and installing pigtails of wire.  They looked amazingly like explosive charges.  I positioned these about the bus, including on top of the fuel tank, and wired them into a simulated detonator box.  When this became known through debriefing of hostages as we released them for various reasons, an EOD team was added to the incident response command.

 Within an hour, even before an incident commander arrived from J-2, things began to happen.  Movements in the surrounding bushes and the occasional glimpse of an uncamoulflaged face told us that we were being observed.  Later these untrained observers, who had been levied out of units at Herzo, would be replaced by MPs.  At least two companies would be brought in to seal off the incident site and provide security at the command post, which was set up opposite the Herzo Base mess hall.

 Soon, someone appeared under a flag of truce and made us to understand that some people (hostage negotiators) wanted to talk with us.  We were offered a TA-43 field phone for this purpose.  Within a few minutes, I discovered that it had been bugged by jamming a piece of plastic into the leaves of the push-to-talk switch so that the microphone was permanently “hot.”  The phone was hooked to an amplifier, so that every sound in the bus could be heard in the negotiators’ tent, which was set up a few hundred meters down the road.  I quickly debugged the phone.  We were later told that this seriously interfered with the incident response plans.  Good.  We darned well weren’t going to make it easy on them!

 Although we “terrorists” had brought several days’ supply of food with us, we went along with the negotiators’ plan to trade “hostages” for food and other necessities.  This, of course, was to reduce the number of “hostages” as much as possible while waiting for the specially-trained relief unit to be airlifted into the area.  We were careful to appear as “German” as possible, always speaking German among ourselves and speaking to the “hostages” in broken, heavily-accented English.  When we had to talk to the exercise controller, who had returned to the bus, we took him some distance away since he spoke no German.  Even my clothing and the reading material and food which I had brought were of German origin.

 About 24 hours into the incident, the specially-trained relief unit (which, for reasons of classification, I still can’t identify) was in place.  Although we had been watching for such a thing, we had not seen them infiltrate some nearby brush.  It took us by surprise when they broke cover and piled onto the bus with their Uzzis firing blanks.  Within seconds, they had cleared the bus and all role-players, “terrorist” and “hostage” alike, were face down in the dirt, our wrists secured with flex-cuffs, while a determination was made as to which were which.  The EOD team chief sought me out to be absolutely certain that the “charges” I had placed were actually dummies.

 When we arrived back at Herzo Base, I was amazed at the authority the incident commander had to levy in troops and equipment.  Besides the MP units and the EOD team, there was an aid station and ambulance teams, a company of troops for general labor, an entire troposcatter communications unit which provided point-to-point comms with the White House situation room, a small motor pool of vehicles, and a tent city to house it all.  This was all located across the street from the mess hall, which had been tasked to provide round-the-clock meals for everyone in the exercise.  I saw that USEUCOM was dead serious when it came to responding to a terrorist incident.

 While we were enjoying our first hot meal in over a day, one of the “hostages” paid me one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.  Not knowing which of their number might be released next, they had been sharing information on the “terrorists” and had come to some conclusions about who was who and what was what.  Due to accents which they had heard when we were speaking German, they had pegged all but one of us as Americans.  They had been completely surprised when I spoke with them in English, which they had never heard me use during the exercise.  Because of my unaccented German and my clothing, reading material, and food, they had decided among themselves that I was an observer from the German armed forces!

David Rogers

 "Everything I wrote  was unclassified. ASA people are full of interesting stories, if you can get 
  them  talking, just as ASA was full of interesting people.  That's what made it such a great place to be." 


A  Special "Thanks"  to David Rogers  for  sending this so I could share with everyone.
 

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