A tropical island paradise smack dab in the middle of Mission Bay will be transformed in the near future into a battleground of live action demonstrations, realistic tactical training scenarios and simulated combat-wounded players in the real-life game of counterterrorism, homeland security and emergency response during the sixth annual HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit — one of the largest multi-jurisdictional counterterrorism events in the nation.
“With this year’s HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit, we set out to create something that’s never been done before,” said Brad Barker, president of HALO Corp. “It’s an experiential, multi-jurisdictional ‘trial by fire’ environment, where operations and emergency responders can learn from subject matter experts, as well as their counterparts, be-yond the typical classroom setting.”
Barker and his colleagues at HALO launched the HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit six years ago after seeing a measurable gap in training available to first responders and emergency-response groups on a national level in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“The main focus of our first summit was being able to rapidly deploy emergency and disaster relief to the world’s most austere environments,” he said. “The summits have since expanded to include counterterrorism and homeland security, crisis response and risk mitigation of any kind — from natural to manmade disasters and crisis events.”
This year, the HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit will include hands-on training like never before.
“We found that developing curriculum and training classes based on ‘first person’ perspectives is a very powerful tool, but being able to actually demonstrate or simulate a real world scenario where responders and operators can actually apply the training is simply the best way to safely train people in a controlled environment, without ‘real world’ consequences,” he said.
For five days, the private Paradise Point Resort will become HALO Island, a perilous combat zone where the unexpected can — and will — happen.
“With water on all sides, a dedicated marine and immersive demonstrations day and night, the sky is literally the limit at HALO Island,” Barker said.
Although the training scenarios are simulated, San Diego-based Strategic Operations will create its trademarked “hyper-realistic” tactical training environments using state-of-the-art Hollywood battlefield special effects, making each combat simulation feel like the real deal. Scenarios will include a Somali pirate incursion on the shores of Mission Bay, unmanned aerial vehicles and flyboats, and — the highlight of the immersive training session — a Middle Eastern village, featuring props, special effects, medical simulation systems and professional role players.
A wide range of national security stakeholders involving military, law enforcement and homeland security personnel will take part in the simulations, observation and educational seminars at the summit from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2.
In addition to live demonstrations and training simulations, the summit will offer more than 30 courses on relevant security issues ranging from threats via land, air, water and even cyberspace. Special guest speakers will include such brilliant counterterrorism and emergency-response minds as: Michael Hayden, a retired four-star general and former director of the National Security Agency and CIA; Deputy Chief Michael Downing, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Counterterrorism and Special Operations Bureau; and Alejandro Poiré Romero, Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior.
HALO is also partnering with the San Diego-based nonprofit group Freedom Station USA, a provider of transitional housing and recovery support services to injured veterans returning from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Freedom Station USA representatives and injured veterans will be on hand at the summit, providing information about the nonprofit and educating participants about their mission.
Registration for government, law enforcement, military and EMS professionals is $1,000, and registration for private sector participants in $1,400.