Hundreds of Marines and local citizens are gearing up for a large exercise, involving a simulated train derailment, to prepare them for emergencies that may arise in the area of a Virginia base.
Approximately 180 Marines and civilians from Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, and approximately 110 people to 115 people who work for the surrounding Prince William County will respond Thursday to the “derailment” on base, Marine spokesman Capt. Michael Curtis told Marine Corps Times Thursday.
“This exercise provides a realistic hands-on scenario for our first responders, emergency operations personnel and regional partners to test our mass casualty and family reunification procedures,” Brian Misner, the county’s emergency management coordinator, said in a news release May 10.
The representatives from the county come from the fire department, the department of public safety communications, the department of social services, the police department, the department of community services, the office of emergency management and other departments, according to Curtis.
Local residents will also act as role players during the exercise, the release stated.
Planning for the event began in summer 2022, well before the Feb. 3 derailment of a train carrying hazardous chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio, according to Curtis. Following that disaster, thousands of East Palestine residents were told to evacuate.
It has been more than a decade since the Marine base and the county conducted a full-scale exercise together, but the two entities regularly prepare for emergencies, albeit at a smaller scale, Curtis said in his statement to Marine Corps Times.
Located an approximately 35-mile drive from Washington, the Virginia base is home to many of the Corps’ training and education activities, as well as the commands responsible for acquiring technology, developing new tactics and managing personnel. It also houses training academies for the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
A train station for Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express lines is located on the base.
In 2006, a commuter train carrying hundreds of passengers derailed just north of the base, causing at least four injuries, news outlets reported at the time.
In 2017, an Amtrak train crashed into a tanker truck north of Quantico, Virginia. No injuries were reported.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.