Aug. 14, 2009

3-116th Infantry works with civil authorities in exercise

By Capt. Matt Nowak
Virginia Army Guard Public Affairs

WINCHESTER, Va. — Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team trained with civilian authorities as part of a joint, civil-military training exercise at various locations within their area of operations Aug. 1-2.


  3-116th exercise

Staff Sgt. David Quinn, a medic from Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 1116th Brigade Combat Team, evaluates and treats a casualty as part of a joint civil-military training exercise at Winchester Regional Airport during their weekend drill, August 1-2. (Photo by Capt. Dave Garner, 3rd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team)

The battalion conducted a company-level civil support exercise in conjunction with the Virginia Defense Force and local first responders at each of the unit’s five locations. This gave the battalion an opportunity to work out details and any issues in working with civil authorities before a real world event happens.

“Our intent with these exercises is to provide each unit an opportunity to work with their local community responders, Virginia Defense Force, and neighbor organizations to conduct relevant civil support exercises. These are the type of missions that we might expect to be called to duty to execute,” explained Lt. Col. William Zana, the battalion commander.          

The unit’s priority is to maintain its ability to respond to civil support requests while simultaneously preparing for the next potential deployment. The training pays benefits for both state and federal mission readiness. Both are frequently tasked with establishing cooperative relationships with local leaders and organizations. Many of the basic soldiering tasks that are performed are relevant to both missions.
Each company was given an area-specific scenario based on real world events:
Charlottesville’s Company A conducted a response to a notional crash of a small commuter aircraft with the mission of securing the perimeter and assisting with recovery operations. (Click HERE for more information about the Virginia Defense Force and Company A working together.)

Woodstock’s Company B worked with the local forestry department and the National Park Service to learn about forest fire fighting techniques. Although they didn’t train with live fires, Soldiers received comprehensive training on equipment and techniques for combating forest fires, along with familiarization on different organization’s roles during a crisis and critical safety considerations.

Leesburg’s Company C was presented with a hazardous material scenario. Soldiers worked with the Virginia Defense Force and Loudon County’s HAZMAT team. The scenario was based on responding to a localized HAZMAT incident involving mass casualties. They assisted the HAZMAT team in setting up a secure perimeter, controlling access points, assisting with evacuating casualties, and followed up with decontamination training.

Fredericksburg’s Company D worked with the Fredericksburg Police Department, the University of Mary Washington’s Police Department and the local 911 call center. Their scenario was based on the aftermath of a notional hurricane. The call center coordinated calls to the police and fire departments and Company D Soldiers assisted first responders at a variety of locations. Soldiers also trained on establishing civil assistance and presence patrols, much like they would during a real disaster response. 

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, which is located at the newly opened Winchester Readiness Center, served an important role for the entire weekend. Along with responding to a downed private aircraft with at the nearby Winchester Regional Airport, HHC set up an Emergency Operations Center functioning jointly with the Virginia Defense Force. 

Soldiers from HHC, the Virginia Defense Force and the Frederick County Emergency Medical Services Department conducted a mass casualty exercise as part of the downed aircraft scenario. The day began with morning classes taught by Frederick County EMS on mass casualty triage procedures. The afternoon continued at the Winchester Regional Airport in which several of the passengers were injured as part of a simulated crash of a small commuter aircraft. Soldiers responded to quickly cordon the crash site and begin assisting in the triage of patients. The HHC medics provided care and evacuation of the simulated patients, helping them to train on their essential tasks. 

Confirming the relevance of this scenario, a private aircraft was involved in a non-fatal crash near the airport location used by the HHC Soldiers just days after the unit’s exercise. 

 “The training exercise was designed to develop a closer relationship between the Virginia Army National Guard and local emergency services,” said Capt. Ed McMichael, commander of HHC. “This was a great exercise for all involved. It helped all organizations involved to understand each other’s capabilities.” 

The EOC staff worked as the command and control element. They provided event tracking, identified issues and problems while providing answers for Soldiers on the ground. The EOC also provided the common operating picture between each unit and the VDF making sure operations run smoothly.

As part of the exercise, the units also conducted communications training to assess their ability to communicate using different types of radio systems. The communications exercise tested high-frequency communications to multiple locations and examined capabilities and limitations within other systems. These types of exercises enhance the ability to work with local authorities in response to civil emergencies and gives units specific expertise at the company level should they receive similar missions. 
“This is our primary training opportunity to work closely with the Virginia Defense Force for this year. We're fortunate to have great working relationships with our VDF counterparts at each of our armories and are expanding our relationship by identifying and conducting training together where appropriate,” Zana concluded.

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