June 30, 2010

Virginia Guard response force conducts external evaluation

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

GLEN ALLEN, Va. — A special response force of the Virginia National Guard has been recommended for validation to provide support to first responders and civil authorities if Virginia was attacked with a high-explosive, chemical, radiological or nuclear weapon of mass destruction. The unit conducted an external evaluation at Henrico County Fire Training Center June 18 and was rated as “fully trained” on all 16 of the major tasks they had to accomplish.

 

A Virginia National Guard Soldier assists a simulated casualty during the CERFP external evaluation held June 18 at the Henrico Fire Training Center. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos from this exercise.

The Virginia National Guard’s special response force is the Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear High Yield Explosive Emergency Response Force Package, known as the CERFP (pronounced “surf-p”). The CERFP can conduct tasks associated with incident management, search and rescue, mass decontamination and medical triage and treatment. The force is made up of Soldiers and Airmen from units based in Richmond, West Point, Hampton, Norfolk, Rocky Mount, Danville, Virginia Beach, and Langley Air Force Base.

“This is a great exericse,” said Lt. Col. Preston Scott, commander of the CERFP. “Every two to three years we go through a validation process to evaluate our skills and capabilities to accomplish the mission, and we have had the opportunity to incorporate our civilian counterparts who we would be interacting with if it were an actual emergency. Once we get on scene we would have personal knowledge of who we would be working with and how they operate.”

Personnel from National Guard Bureau and the Joint Interagency Training and Evaluation Center conducted the evaluation, and the adjutant general of Virginia makes the final validation decision based off their evaluation.

 “The feedback from the evaluators was very positive,” said Capt. Shawn Talmadge, operations officer for the unit. “The evaluators were impressed with our ability to operate with so many other first responders.”

More than 250 Virginia National Guard personnel trained for a week prior to the evaluation alongside an additional 150 from seven other state and local emergency response organizations including the Virginia State Police, the Henrico County Division of Fire and the Virginia Defense Force. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army provided meals for participants during the week as well.

The unit was evaluated on 16 different major tasks including conducting search and Extraction deployment Operations, conducting rope extraction operations, establishing a response decontamination site, conducting ambulatory and non-ambulatory decontamination, conducting military personnel and equipment decontamination, conducting casualty collection and medical triage and providing treatment and emergency care for causalities.

For the medical personnel taking part in the exercise, the training augments their real-world medical skills, as well as gives them training to take back to their civilian jobs. According to Lt. Col. John Karmack, a doctor with the Virginia Air National Guard’s 192d Medical Group from Langley Air Force Base, even though the training scenario presented causalities with chemical-related injuries, basic trauma care skills are tested as well. Karmack works as a emergency room doctor in his civilian career.

“It gives me the opportunity to train the medics and nurses on advanced trauma life support, and it refreshes me on some of the chemical and biological hazards we are always at risk for,” Karmack said. “I can bring my civilian experience and training here, and then I can take the training I receive here back to my civilian job.”

Virginia’s CERFP was authorized in June 2006 and is made up of approximately 350 Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen. The units making up Virginia’s CERFP include:

  1. the incident management team from the Hampton-based Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery.
  2. the mass casualty decontamination element from the Rocky Mount-based 229th Chemical Company
  3. the search and extraction element from West Point-based 237th Engineer Company
  4. the mass casualty medical triage and treatment element from the 192d Medical Group, Virginia Air National Guard stationed at Langley Air Force Base

The concept is that when an incident occurs, Guardsmen of the CERFP are alerted through the Joint Force Headquarters – Virginia and mobilized on state active duty. If the incident is located within Virginia they would proceed to the incident when directed by the Joint Force Headquarters. If the incident is located outside of Virginia, the Joint Force Headquarters - Virginia would coordinate with the receiving state under the terms agreed to in the Emergency Mutual Aid Compact. After arriving at the incident site, the incident management team and element commanders coordinate with and support the local incident commander. 

CERFP Soldiers and Airmen will be in full chemical suits with air purifying respirators during the exercise and conduct collapsed structure rescue, mass casualty decontamination and mass casualty triage in a simulated WMD contaminated environment. There will be over 100 casualty players, many with simulated severe injuries, replicating mass casualties from the attack. The exercise demonstrates a WMD consequence management capability that exists in the National Guard within one of 17 CERFP organizations and showcases the ability of the CERFP to integrate with a civilian Incident Command System.

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