29th Infantry Division Press Release
STATE MILITARY RESERVATION, Virginia Beach, Va. — The 29th Infantry Division set up an operations cell here to test its ability to form a joint task force charged with providing emergency military support to civil authorities in the National Capitol Region.
More than 100 key National Guard staff and planners from the 29th ID learned to work seamlessly with state agency personnel and first responders April 9 to 14 using a hurricane-scenario driven exercise. The formation of a joint task force is designed to expedite Guard support with evacuation of citizens and security of property when disaster strikes, officials said.
“How we train to support the citizens of Virginia and Maryland will go a long way towards how we effectively support them in time of need,” said Brig. Gen. Grant Hayden, exercise director and deputy commander for the 29th ID. “We do these exercises to see how we’ll respond during a real emergency. We’re solidifying the Joint Task Force 29 concept.”
“What we’ve learned from Katrina is that we’ve got to do things on the front end,” said 1st Sgt. Russell Hunter, 29th Infantry Division chief operations sergeant. “We need to understand the complexities of working with civilian responders. If we’re all working the same, and we’re all talking the same, then we’re able to cut out the bureaucracy.”
The exercise trained the 29th ID staff on how emergency management processes work, “from your local fireman all the way up to the state level,” Hunter said.
This was the first exercise of this size and scope for the 29th division staff, said Virgil Gray, the division’s operations and training assistant. His team was tasked a year ago to begin working the scenario and coordinate civilian responder support.
Representatives from the Red Cross, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Maryland’s Emergency Management Agency, Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia State Police were integrated into the exercise. Other participants included Virginia Air National Guard’s 200th Weather Flight and the Joint Forces Headquarters of Virginia and Maryland.
Gray’s team ran the scenario and provided support to the 29th ID staff as they worked through the events. Operators managed their resources as they would in a real disaster by interacting with a computer-generated simulation that introduces real-time scenario changes.
Gray called the scenario “very realistic” and said that it has never before been incorporated into training on this scale.
If activated as a joint task force, the 29th ID could be responsible for coordinating Army and Air National Guard support efforts in the National Capitol Region.
The division received notification of the exercise and began its planning in July 2006. A follow-on exercise is planned for September. The operations cell worked out of the Air National Guard’s 203rd Red Horse Armory at Virginia Beach.