GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Montana law enforcement agencies are learning how to respond to an attack on a nuclear weapons convoy, a scenario that nuclear weapons officials say gives them nightmares.

To date, there have been no attacks on convoys, but the agencies say they are prepared.

Local authorities have been put on notice they could be the first to respond to any incident that occurs off base at Malmstrom Air Force Base or away from guarded nuclear sites, and federal officials want to be sure they are ready.

About 15 local, state, tribal and federal agencies joined Malmstrom airmen recently for an exercise and a demonstration of how security forces airmen would respond to a simulated attack on a convoy. The exercise involved a simulated attack on the transfer of nuclear weapons to a missile launch site.

Stan Moody, Malmstrom’s security plans and programs manager, said a presidential order requires an integrated force of federal and local agencies for any nuclear incident response plan to “handle our worst day.”

Col. Jay Folds, Malmstrom’s vice commander, said the partnerships are working well.

“We’ve got confidence in what we do,” he said.

Col. Ron Allen, 341st Missile Wing commander, told the participants that if there was a situation where the Air Force units were trying to stop an armed attacker, local agencies may be called on to control crowds and handle civilians.

Capt. Jeff Newton of the Great Falls Police Department said his agency has had a good working relationship with federal agencies for the last five years, the Great Falls Tribune reported (http://tinyurl.com/zl9dq6e ).

Each agency has a role to play, and building the relationships ahead of time is critical, officials said.

Senior Airman Patrick Currie, a member of the 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron Convoy Response Force, said all agencies are learning how to respond and their responsibilities.

“It’s important to all be on the same page,” Currie said. “We rely on them just as much as they rely on us.”


Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com