Military response drill heldPublished 9:56pm Thursday, June 20, 2013
By Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Dietrick
Joint Task Force Civil Support Public Affairs
More than 200 military and emergency response leaders met in Suffolk this week to discuss and synchronize the role military responders would play following a complex catastrophe such as a nuclear detonation or biological attack.
The three-day event allowed Joint Task Force Civil Support and commanders from about 60 Department of Defense chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) response force units and other emergency management agencies to review how thousands of responders could respond to a catastrophic disaster in the U.S., whether manmade or natural.
The Fort Eustis-based task force hosted the event at the state-of-the-art Lockheed Martin Center for Innovation to provide a forum for commanders of the Response Force units to discuss their individual plans to transport and employ their units during a response.
In the rehearsal of concept, or “ROC” drill, JTF-CS’ commanding general, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jeff W. Mathis III explained how military responders would synchronize efforts for an upcoming field training exercise called “Vibrant Response.”
That exercise will help U.S. Northern Command validate the nearly 5,200 response forces and evaluate the operational capabilities of about 9,000 Department of Defense personnel in support of a homeland response following a complex catastrophe.
“The purpose of Vibrant Response is to confirm that the units that make up the Defense CBRN Response Force can execute the mission,” Mathis said. “I believe that we will have a successful confirmation.”
JTF-CS provides command and control of the Response Force, which has 88 different military units located at more than 36 locations throughout the nation. The Response Force provides a variety of life-saving and -sustaining response capabilities focused around six core capabilities: mission command, identification and detection, search and extraction, decontamination, medical triage and stabilization, and medical evacuation.
Although JTF-CS responds only at the request of a state’s governor, the task force and the Response Force must be prepared to transport personnel and equipment in a matter of hours to conduct life-saving and life-sustaining operations in support of a lead federal agency, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That could mean prioritizing the movement of units located closest to the incident site first to maximize resources to save lives.
“We could be sitting in this room right now and an event could take place and we could be called out,” Mathis said. “This world is a very uncertain world, so we never really know when we’re going to get called into the front.”
To that end, Mathis and his staff, along with task force leaders, emphasized a continued need during planning and response operations to collaborate with responders at all levels of government before an event occurs.
Attendees reviewed individual unit response briefs, participated in discussions on unit capabilities and culminated with an hour-by-hour domestic response “walkthrough” of military support following a domestic incident.
Equally important to ensuring an effective response is establishing relationships between the task force and Response Force leaders, according to U.S. Air Force Maj. Joe Legradi, deputy director for JTF-CS Future Operations.
“We are…putting faces to names, so if we had to respond, we will already have a familiarization of the personnel in those units that we will be working with,” said Legradi.
The exercise provided a forum for collaborative discussion on how state and federal military units respond to disasters, as well as their individual ability to respond according to a set timeline following a disaster.
“The unique thing about our mission is that we never know when we’re going to be called out,” Mathis said. “That is why it’s important to always be ready.”