Sporting beige, desert fatigues and an arsenal of aviators, the 8th Civil Support Team, Colorado National Guard, was in the parking lot of the Pepsi Center on Monday afternoon, July 9, suited up and ready for action. What kind of action? Whatever the fuck kind of action you got, sucka! But more specifically, hot terrorist on terrorist action. Because this was Operation Northern Guard, an exercise designed to simulate an attack using chemical weapons on a large event taking place at a large public facility. Hell yeah, I thought as I sped to the Pepsi Center, this is going to be intense!
I was picturing Die Hard-type stuff. Gristled heroes kicking in doors and rappelling down from rooftops uttering lame lines like, “I guess it’s just another manic Monday,” before tackling someone and kicking in their teeth in the name of enduring freedom. And then there’d be a simulated explosion and they’d spray misty vapor into the air, and it would be total chaos and they would have to ask all able-bodied men in the arena to lend a hand.
“You,” one of the National Guard guys would yell at me, chucking an AK-47 in my direction. “Take this and keep these coordinates on lockdown.”
“But, I don’t even know how to use a gun,” I’d stammer.
“There’s no time to argue, son. Your country is counting on you. Now shoot anyone you see in a turban. And remember these words: lockdown, parameter, coordinates, reconnoiter.”
“What do those words even mean?”
“No one knows, son. No one knows.”
Then that guy gets his fucking head blown off and then it’s just me, my shirt somehow ripped open in the melee, stunning abs glistening for the terrified, super-hot women who writhe helpless in sexy fear inside my coordinates!
But when I got to the parking lot the most exciting thing I saw was Hendrik Sybrandy of 7News. That’s when I knew that this exercise was going to blow. Sybrandy wasn’t the only reporter there. There were all sorts of cameramen and photographers and reporters scribbling furiously into notepads, taking down all that they could glean from the various members of the 8th Civil Support Team, which included many canned lines about “inter-operability.”
“In addition to improving the readiness and training of the CST’s, this exercise is designed to improve interagency relationships with State and Local Civilian agencies and the CSTs as well as the relationship between states CSTs,” says the propaganda.
That’s all well and good, but isn’t there going to be any sort of gnarly demonstration? I wondered. Any ass-kicking, or faux victims tearing out of the Pepsi Center in mock agony, thrashing on the ground from whatever chemical attack had occurred while the CST bursts in and sprays up the place in a cacophony of blanks and pyrotechnics?
No, a uniformed man informed me, there would not.
Instead, members of the CST led reporters on little tours of the various trucks and satellite dishes and hazmat suits that they had trotted out for the occasion and discussed how fantastic it is to practice like this and to learn how to operate most effectively with local and stage agencies.
Kumbaya, Colorado National Guard, let’s blow something up already!
Finally, the group all gathered around and some sergeant or captain or lieutenant or chaplain -- or whatever they call those guys -- addressed the CSTs about the fake situation going on inside the Pepsi Center.
“We have reports of 175 civilian casualties,” he started. Then he went on to list some of the symptoms, including “redness of eyes,” and “nausea,” leading me to believe that the evil-doers were now employing deadly gravity bong technology. Homeslice then talked about areas where most of the casualties were located and stated that while no one has yet taken credit for the attack, it was believed to be the work of the sinister-sounding Copper Crescent, the group that had killed 1,000 people in a fictional Kansas City.
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Now we’re talking! This was the kind of doomsday drama that I had come for; let’s kick some Crescent Moon ass! All of the CST seemed appropriately on edge, playing the part like they were about to go into battle and bring the motherfucking ruckus. But then the group broke off and nothing happened. Some of them studied a map of the Pepsi Center inside a truck. Others made sure to stay hydrated.
Hendrik Sybrandy led an impromptu on-camera interview with some higher up in the CST as five cameras recorded the inaction. There was no gas spill, no explosions, no screaming, no chaos, no nothing. It seems in this ideal world of practice disaster, everything runs pretty damn smoothly. But the thing about smooth, is that it is boring. And boring is the type of territory best covered by Sybrandy and Univision and the numerous other media outlets there. Call my ass when there’s an explosion.
Thoroughly disappointed, I left Operation Northern guard after a half hour. It was hot out and I was getting really hungry for lunch. For some reason I was craving Middle Eastern food. -- Adam Cayton-Holland