April 12, 2007

29th Infantry Division Headquarters prepares for disaster response

29th Infantry Division Press Release

Master Sgt. Wesley Pinckney, Jr. (left), and Lt. Col. David James (right), both with the 29th Infantry Division engineer section, review a computer-generated training scenario in which a hurricane strikes the east coast. More than 100 key division staff and planners began training today to learn to work seamlessly with first responders. The division set up an operations cell that would be in charge of coordinating Guard support efforts to civil authorities in the event of a natural disaster in the National Capitol Region. (Photo by Master Sgt. Fred W. Baker III, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

STATE MILITARY RESERVATION, Virginia Beach, Va. — In an historic training exercise for the 29th Infantry Division, on April 11 Soldiers established the operations center charged with coordinating Guard Military Support to Civil Authorities (MSCA) in the event of an emergency in the National Capitol Region.

More than 100 key staff and planners from the 29th ID are using this training to learn to work seamlessly with state agency personnel and first responders in the event of a natural disaster in the National Capitol Region.

“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.”

The training incorporates lessons-learned from Hurricane Katrina and will help expedite Guard support and put boots on the ground sooner when disaster strikes, said 1st Sgt. Russell Hunter, 29th Infantry Division chief operations sergeant.

“What we’ve learned from Katrina is that we’ve got to do things on the front end,” Hunter said. “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 will train 29th ID staff on how emergency management processes work, “from your local fireman all the way up to the state level,” Hunter said.

This is 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 are integrated into the exercise. Other participants includeVirginia Air National Guard’s 200th Weather Flight and the Joint Forces Headquarters of Virginia and Maryland.

Gray’s team is running the scenario and is providing support to the 29 th ID staff as they work through the events. Operators manage their resources as they would in a real disaster by interacting with a computer-generated simulation that introduces real-time scenario changes. The staff will work through the various stages of the scenario through Friday.

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 Headquarters, the 29th ID could be responsible for coordinating Army and Air National Guard support efforts in Virginia and Maryland.

The division received notification of the exercise and began its planning in July 2006. The cell is working out of the Air National Guard’s 203rd Red Horse Armory here at Virginia Beach.


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