January 29, 2009
Virginia CERF quietly on call during inauguration
By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs
FORT BELVOIR, Va. — The presence of Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard was highly visible during the 56th Presidential Inauguration, but a very key player from Virginia was most likely never even noticed.
The Virginia National Guard deployed over 200 Soldiers and Airmen to Fort Belvoir to stand by in case of a catastrophic attack during the inauguration festivities. The servicemembers, who are a part of a joint unit referred to as a CERF, which stands for Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, high yield explosive Enhanced Response Force, were on standby during the events in the D.C. area.
In the event of an attack on the nation’s capital the CERF was on stand-by to support any request for a CBRNE event. “If called we could be asked to support Urban Search and Extraction, provid mass casualty decontamination, and medical triage,” said Maj. Preston Scott, executive officer, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment.
The CERF began finalizing its plans for the inauguration in early January. During their monthly drill weekend the Soldiers and Airmen focused on completing their individual qualifications. Each unit reviewed all personnel records to make sure they met all credentialing requirements for the mission.
During rehearsals for the event the CERF proved that they could be ready to respond in a timely fashion. They performed multiple rehearsals and even conducted a surprise alert in which the unit was loaded in vehicles and ready to roll within six minutes of notification, according to Scott.
“We deployed 200 plus Soldiers and Airmen, over 50 vehicles and moved units from four separate locations to converge on a single location and stand ready to support if required. We had positive feedback from our soldiers who felt it was a valuable exercise,” said Scott.
In addition to the 200 Soldiers and Airmen deployed to Fort Belvoir, the CERF also had two personnel deployed to the D.C. Armory as liaison officers.