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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 2, 2001

The September 11th attack
National Guard drills for disaster at Aloha Stadium

By Tanya Bricking
Advertiser Staff Writer

It may be make-believe, but after Sept. 11, what has been going on all week at Aloha Stadium sure seems real.

National Guard personnel in decontamination suits place "victim" Staff Sgt. Thomas Odoardi on a litter during a drill simulating a bioterrorism attack on Aloha Stadium.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

A Hawai'i National Guard unit called the 93D Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team has been working with federal and Honolulu police, fire and hazmat units to simulate how they would respond to acts of terrorism.

The exercise scenario: It's the morning of a game day at the stadium and a janitor has stumbled upon something in the locker room that is making people sick.

The emergency responders must figure out what the problem is, collect a sample, analyze the suspicious substance and make sure people are safe before crowds begin to arrive for the 8 p.m. kickoff.

The drills were planned before the real-life attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, but jobs such as that of National Guard Staff Sgt. Thomas Odoardi have suddenly become high-profile.

Odoardi was one of the men in what appeared to be blue spacesuits who went into the stadium locker room yesterday to take a sample of the pretend threat. An hour later, he was on a stretcher, the supposed victim of heat exhaustion from working inside the 110-degree suit.

"It's like any other military service," Odoardi said. "That's what you train for. I hope it never happens here, but ... "

These days, biological weapons are no longer thought of as far-fetched threats.

"It's not the first time these guys have been involved in this kind of training," said Lt. Col. Mark Samisch, Army spokesman. "But since Sept. 11, it's become a lot more focused."

As the scenario played out yesterday, Odoardi's team accomplished its mission and took care of the nerve agent threat.

"It's an orchestrated event," said Lt. Col. Ed Toy, commander of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Unit. "It manages chaos, and that's an art."