Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear crisis responders hope disaster never strikes, but if it does, they are prepared to respond.
More than 140 JTF-CS service members and Department of Defense civilians are participating in Exercise Sudden Response 2019 (SR-19), a JTF-CS-led annual command post exercise at the Crown Expo Center near Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., Jan. 24-30.
“The objective of this exercise is to sustain and improve the critical command and control (C2) skills that this mission requires,” said Army Maj. Gen. William “Bill” Hall, commander, JTF-CS. “We hope we never have to respond to a catastrophic CBRN disaster, but if we’re called on, we’ll be ready. This event will also prepare us for our annual certification exercise, Vibrant Response 2019, scheduled for April 29 through May 6 at locations in Michigan and Indiana.”
SR-19 tests procedures and collaborative efforts while directing the lifesaving activities of the Defense CBRN Response Force (DCRF) allocated forces.
The DCRF consists of 5,200 personnel to include Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians from active-duty and reserve units. JTF-CS and the DCRF provide the Secretary of Defense and U.S. Northern Command a standing task force always ready to respond to a no-notice CBRN incident.
“Participating in SR-19 enables Task Force Medical to better understand the DCRF mission while enhancing our internal and external synchronization so we are prepared if were ever called upon to serve for a disaster response,” said Army Col. Kimberlee Aiellois, 44th Medical Brigade Commander, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. “It’s an honor for us to learn defense support of civil authorities, maintain readiness, continue to enhance our skills and capabilities and also stay sharp for contingency operations.”
Task Force Medical is the mission command element for the Army and Air Force medical units. The DCRF forces are aligned in Task Force Aviation, Task Force Operations, Task Force Logistics, Task Force Medical, and supporting forces.
The DCRF’s mission in the event of a catastrophic CBRN incident is to assist local, state, federal and tribal partners in saving lives, preventing further injury, and providing critical support to enable community recovery when conducting DSCA response operations.
In addition to JTF-CS personnel, there are about 420 people from the DCRF’s four task forces who are also participating to maximize the training opportunity, as well as Reserve augmentees, liaisons, enabler personnel and various active-duty units.
The DCRF participants train under the same exercise scenario with their portion called Exercise Determined Response, which runs concurrently with SR-19. DR is supported by U.S. Forces Command and because of Army-specific tracking systems has its own name. The two exercises enable sustainment training of the on-mission DCRF task force brigade and battalion headquarters.
JTF-CS created various exercise training objectives for the participating forces. A major objective is being able to effectively deploy in response to a simulated nuclear incident and do so expeditiously.
“Successfully synchronizing the arrival of military life-saving units and their capabilities to a point of need in order to speed our response, will enable us to start saving lives sooner,” explained Hall.
JTF-CS members arrived by ground transportation in coordinated groups of command vehicles simulating a deployment while others assisting arrived by aircraft. Once JTF-CS and the Defense CBRN Response Forces arrived, the synchronization to get to areas for life-saving continued.
To better simulate an actual crisis response, the exercise is taking place 24-hours a day with day and night shifts. The Crown Expo Center was transformed into the joint operations center, a hub of activity to coordinate life-saving efforts in support of civilian authorities and their crisis responders.
While at SR-19 another major training focus is using online collaborative tools to communicate over distance electronically.
A commercial off-the-shelf web-based meeting space is being used as a way to get a common operational picture, or a repository of active information, about how the DCRF are responding to mission assignments. Mission assignments are the work orders the lead federal agency, FEMA in this case, is requesting to get help with things like searching for and evacuating injured persons.
Key to accomplishing the mission assignments in support of civil authorities is the ability to work together in cooperation in a high-stress environment.
“Relationships are critical to unity of effort and ultimately a successful response,” said Hall. “We apply a teamwork approach to our activities every day and understand the great responsibility of successfully conducting our mission.”