FORT EUSTIS, Va., April 12, 2019 —
About 200 service members representing 60 military units across the nation attended a mission planning conference at Fort Eustis, Va., April 9-11. The main focus of the conference was to prepare for an upcoming major disaster-response training exercise and the Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Force mission (DCRF).
“My goal is to provide support and training wherever we can to improve your readiness and confidence in our no-fail mission,” said Army Maj. Gen. William “Bill” Hall, commander, Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS), Fort Eustis.
The attendees represented JTF-CS and units comprising four task forces including operations, medical, logistics and aviation, and other organizations preparing for Exercise Vibrant Response-Guardian Response 2019 which will be held in locations in Michigan, Indiana and some support in Texas, April 29-May 6.
The main theme of the conference was the value of preparation through critical training in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) response and “training with repetitions to turn performance into muscle memory,” according to Brig. Gen. Rod Faulk, U.S. Army Reserve, 84th Training Command, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
“It’s like big-league baseball,” he said. “You can’t hit the big-league curve ball unless you take 1,000 swings in the cage.”
The Task Forces comprise the 5,200-person Defense CBRN Response Force who are based at more than 30 locations across the nation who would come together to conduct Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) if ever called upon by the nation. JTF-CS has 173 members, which increases to more than 300 people during a response to provide command and control of DCRF forces.
During the conference, the participants discussed topics like guiding document Joint Publication 3-28-DSCA, working with state authorities, conducting operations in support of a lead federal agency, medical, logistical, and aviation support, computer simulation training programs, operational plans and risks, and the conference’s goal of enabling decisive action coupled with mission command philosophy.
On the last day, the task force commanders and representatives briefed the group on their progress addressing response issues for a crisis scenario they had worked through during small-group break-out sessions during the training conference.
“We assume there would be a limited supply of water available from the public system. We must anticipate this need and ensure we retain the capability to provide water for decontamination operations,” said Maj. Cory Clayton, operations officer, 36th Engineering Brigade, part of Task Force Operations.
Task Force Operations provides a populace in need with urban search and rescue, and mass casualty decontamination (MCD). They also provide initial triage, treatment and patient evacuation in support of MCD.
During the Task Force Medical portion of the brief, Army Lt. Col. Carol Anderson, executive officer, 1st Medical Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, part of Task Force Medical talked about specific challenges associated with their mission set.
“Our challenge would be getting medical capabilities to the impacted area through degraded travel routes, possible severe weather and broken-down infrastructure,” said Anderson. “Task Force Medical rapidly deploys to provide world-class medical care in support of civil authorities to save lives, mitigate human suffering, prevent further injury and provide temporary critical support to enable community recovery, and ultimately, conduct a transition of responsibility to follow on forces or civil authority."
Army Lt. Col. Jason Raub, commander, general support aviation battalion (2-227 GSAB), 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, part of Task Force Aviation briefed on capabilities include rotary wing aviation operations to provide casualty evacuation and medical evacuation, air transport of personnel, search and rescue and a host of other critical missions.
“It’s all about customer support and evacuating patients when providing aircraft for mission assignments,” he said.
Lastly, Task Force Logistics briefed about their efforts.
“Movement in and around the crisis event area would be constrained by debris, stalled vehicles, and evacuees along with major highways being impassable,” said Lt. Col. Justin Redfern, 533rd Combat Support Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, part of Task Force Logistics.
Task Force Logistics rapidly deploys to provide logistics capability and multi-class distribution to the DCRF for life-saving and life-sustaining missions.
The conference concluded with participants saying they were more prepared for their upcoming DCRF mission and exercise Vibrant Response-Guardian Response 2019, which the latter is a U.S. Northern Command-directed, Joint Task Force-5/Joint Forces Land Component Command (U.S. Army North) planned and executed joint collective event designed to confirm and enhance CBRN readiness.
The JTF-CS commander concluded with an emphasis on the goal and importance of their DCRF roles.
“We strive for unity of effort verses somebody out there doing their own thing during a disaster response,” said Hall. “This whole-of-nation response would require capabilities from civilian, state, Guard, Reserve and federal organizations working together.”
Hall also placed emphasis on the value of having a trained and ready DCRF.
“Think of the DCRF mission as an insurance policy for America,” he said. “Like one’s own insurance policies, one hopes to have to never use them, but are thankful to have them.”