April 9, 2009

Incident Response Force trains for supporting civil authorities

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. -- Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s Incident Response Force simulated supporting local civil authorities in the aftermath of a major hurricane during a Situational Training Exercise conducted April 3-5 at Fort Pickett.

The Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team is the Virginia Guard’s designated Incident Response Force, the unit that gets the first call when state or local government needs Guard support in the event of a natural or man-made disaster in the commonwealth.

 

Soldiers from the Virginia Guard Incident Response Force prepare to evacuate a simulated casualty during a situational training exercise conducted April 3-5 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Different companies in the battalion have been assigned special “force package” missions for search and rescue, security and evacuation, explained Lt. Col. Scott Smith, commander of 1st Battalion.

“We’ve had the IRF mission for about 12 months now, so the purpose of this exercise was to rehearse some of the things we could be asked to do for our state mission,” Smith said.

Smith explained the training scenario simulated the Virginia Guard assisting local authorities in the Virginia Beach area in the aftermath of a large hurricane. The Fort Pickett urban training site simulated several city blocks in Virginia Beach, and Soldiers from the battalion acted as local law enforcement to interact with the Guard Soldiers conducting the training.

A simulated incident command center was established, and platoon leaders would receive assistance requests from the local “sheriff”. In the scenario, there have been reports of looting, so security forces needed to be put in place to augment local law enforcement and buildings needed to be searched for possible casualties, Smith explained. Any “injured” citizens would be evacuated to an area in the urban training site designated as the medical treatment facility.

 

A Soldier from 1st Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team (pictured in a black coat) plays the role of a local sheriff and interacts with Virginia Guard personnel during a a situational training exercise conducted April 3-5 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

A Company Soldiers from Bedford and Farmville are assigned the search and rescue mission, and they conducted training with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management during March drill on building search procedures.

B Company Soldiers from Lexington and C Company Soldiers from Christiansburg are assigned the dismounted security mission and D Company Soldiers from Pulaski and Martinsville are assigned the mounted security mission. E Company Soldiers from Roanoke and Soldiers from the Headquarters Company are assigned the evacuation mission.

The units executed the training scenarios in platoon-sized elements of about 30 Soldiers, Smith said. Each iteration of the training lasted for about two  to three hours, and platoons were able to run through the scenario two times during the day and once at night.

 

A Soldier from 1st Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team marks the outside of a building cleared by Virginia Guard Soldiers during a a situational training exercise conducted April 3-5 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“The training has been great,” Smith said. “We are much better prepared now for a state mission as a result of this training, and we are going to be able to take the lessons we learn here and use to improve future training.”

A representative from VDEM was on hand to observe the training, and Smith said they hoped to be able to increase the scope of the scenario in the future to include VDEM personnel working side by side with Guard personnel.

As the Incident Response Force for the Virginia Guard, Soldiers from 1st Battalion have been busy in the last 14 months. In February 2008, approximately 100 Soldiers were called on state active duty to assist with the fighting wildfires in Roanoke. In August, about 250 Soldiers from the battalion were on standby at Fort Pickett for possible missions in the wake of Tropical Storm Hannah. Soldiers from 1st Battalion assisted the Secret Service in running security checkpoints for the Presidential Inauguration in January.

 

Soldiers from the Virginia Guard Incident Response Force assist a simulated casualty during a situational training exercise conducted April 3-5 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

 

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