In Idaho, a Hijacked Airplane Is Just a Drill

Jun. 8--TWIN FALLS --The airport was in chaos Tuesday night thanks to Idaho's first airplane hijacking exercise.

County SWAT, city SWAT, Idaho State Police, Trans-

portation Security Admini-

stration, FBI, Homeland Security --they all formed a miniature United Nations of agencies represented.

"It was an opportunity to bring federal, state and local --all those folks --together working to get the solution to the puzzle," said Steve Hayward, regional exercise coordinator for the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security.

Not everything went according to plan.

The would-be terrorists, played by FBI agents, spotted approaching officers beneath the plane, which prompted officers to rush the plane earlier than planned.

Big deal.

According to all sources, the point of this drill was to teach agencies that normally have little contact with each other to collaborate effectively in a high stakes emergency situation.

Reality also threw a snag in the fictitious scenario. ISP was called away from the early stages of the exercise by a real-life drug bust in Jerome.

The Transportation Security Administration engineered the exercise.

The scenario used white supremacists as the terrorists.

"We didn't go with the Middle Eastern stereotypical terrorist," said Doug Melvin, federal security director for the Department of Homeland Security/TSA of the state of Idaho.

"Things have evolved since 9/11. Terrorists don't have to be Osama bin Laden and be sitting in Pakistan."

Melvin said the drill went extremely well.

Hayward said the mistakes made helped identify areas of weakness.

"We want to be at the top of our game."

<<Times-News (Twin Falls, ID) (KRT) -- 06/09/06>>