July 24, 2007

CERFP adds new capability for Virginia Guard

Airmen from the Virginia Air National Guard’s 192nd Medical Squadron check the status of a “patient” during the CERFP training exercise. (Photo by Pfc. Geoff Dudley, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

By Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. – More than 150 Soldiers and Airmen from throughout the state were on hand June 16 to participate in one of the first training exercises for the Virginia National Guard’s newest joint endeavor.

In the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster, the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) will assist civil authorities in several ways.

The combined Army and Air Guard team can provide the governor with an immediate response capable of searching damaged buildings, rescuing casualties, decontaminating them, and performing medical triage and initial treatment to stabilize them for transport to a medical facility. Once on site, the CERFP will report to civil authorities and integrate into the civilian response structure.

The Soldiers and Airmen that comprise the Virginia CEFP spent a week at Fort Pickett in June testing and familiarizing themselves with their brand-new equipment.

 

A role player is wheeled into a tent to be evaluated by CERP medical personnel during a training exercise June 16 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Pfc. Geoff Dudley, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

 

In October they will conduct and exercise evaluation, which will be reviewed by representatives from Army North command. Once their performance is validated by the Secretary of Defense, the Virginia CERFP will then be ready to respond in case of an emergency situation either in the Commonwealth or in the surrounding area.

The CERFP is made up of four elements staffed primarily by traditional, M-Day personnel from already established National Guard units. These four elements include units specializing in search and extraction, decontamination, medical, and command and control.

The command and control for the CERFP is provided by a joint command. The command and control team directs the overall activities of the CERFP and coordinates with the Joint Task Force–State (JTF-State) and the incident commander when called to respond to an emergency.
The Army National Guard’s 189th Engineer Company makes up the search and extraction element for the Virginia CERFP. This element conducts casualty search and rescues at incident sites, extracts victims, lifts and moves debris and heavy items and uses equipment designed to support the sides of an excavation and prevent cave-ins.

Meanwhile, the decontamination team conducts site selection, establishes log-in and log-out procedures for casualties and other personnel, conducts clothing removal and provides ambulatory and non-ambulatory decontamination. The Army Guard’s 229th Chemical Company will be responsible for these actions.

Finally, the Virginia Air National Guard’s 192nd Medical Squadron makes up the medical team. This group includes physicians, physician’s assistants, nurses and medics and they perform medical triage and initial treatment and provide emergency medical treatment and medical transport. They also provide medical support to patient decontamination and search and extraction.

“As you can see, this is a very joint operation,” said Capt. Shawn Otto, the operations officer for the Virginia CERFP. “We have people from all over the state.”

Virginia National Guard Soldiers ask questions about a role player’s injuries so he can be properly treated by medical personnel. (Photo by Pfc. Geoff Dudley, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Although these three Army and Air Guard units have responsibilities within CERFP, they will also continue to support their traditional state and federal mission.

There are already 12 validated CERFPs throughout the United States, with five new ones, including Virginia, currently being stood up.

The proximity to the National Capital Region, numerous important major military facilities and Virginia’s population of over seven million people are among the reasons CERFP was added to the Virginia National Guard’s current mission set. The CERFP’s area of primary responsibility includes Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

Once up and running, the group, with its member units spread throughout the state, will be ready to respond to a crisis within nine to 13 hours, according to Otto.

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