Editor’s Note: The National Guard is participating in a National Level Exercise in eight states this week. Reports from the Vigilant Guard exercise:
By Army Spc. Antony S. Lee
Missouri National Guard report
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (5/19/11) – Missouri National Guard Soldiers and Airmen across the state are participating in a national level exercise to prepare and coordinate an effective response to earthquakes in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
Scenario-based exercises like this are crucial to ensuring that the Missouri National Guard and other state agencies are prepared for a worst case scenario, said Lt. Col. Paul Kirchhoff.
“The exercise is important because it prepares the Missouri Guard to assist civil authorities in emergencies,” said Kirchhoff, who helped plan the exercise. “We are learning a lot, and that is the key.”
The Guard is working with officials from other Missouri state agencies and the federal government – including the Missouri Department of Public Safety, the State Emergency Management Agency, the Missouri State Highway Patrol among others and the Federal Emergency Management Agency – to formulate a realistic plan of action should an earthquake hit the New Madrid fault.
John Campbell, of the State Emergency Management Agency, underscored the importance of the Missouri National Guard in potential emergencies.
“The Missouri National Guard is a key component of disaster response,” said Campbell, who is also a retired Missouri National Guard master sergeant. “The Guard brings capabilities that don’t exist in everyday situations. They bring disciplined Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen to check the well-being of folks who are suffering from the effects of a disaster or to provide warnings. ”
In the simulation, all available Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen are activated to support Missourians in need. Guardsmen would be expected to support local authorities by conducting search and rescue missions, clearing routes, transporting resources – including food and water – to residents in need and providing security where requested.
Staff Sgt. Cary Mullinax, who helped facilitate the exercise, said Guard members and all participants are facing situations they would encounter after a real earthquake.
“The impact of an earthquake along the New Madrid Seismic Zone would be catastrophic,” Mullinax said. “The Missouri National Guard would be tasked with saving life and limb, protecting property and returning the state to normalcy.”
This year’s exercise is the biggest yet, and it involved six different states as well as the federal government. This is the first national level exercise to feature a response to a natural disaster. All past exercises dealt with responding to terror attacks.
By Jill Swank
BUTLERVILLE, Ind. (5/19/11) – Despite rainy and chilly conditions during National Level Exercise 2011, members of the Indiana National Guard's 53rd Civilian Support Team and first responders from various Indiana Department of Homeland Security districts combined skills at Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex May 16 to 20 for emergency response training.
As part of their full-time mission set, the 53rd CST responds to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents and works in conjunction with local first-responders in determining the nature of an attack or incident; provides medical and technical counsel and the identification and arrival of follow-on state and federal military response resources.
Each team consists of 22 full-time Army and Air National Guardsmen and is broken down into six smaller teams – command, operations, communications, administration and logistics, medical, and survey teams. The 53rd CST is a full-time unit standing ready to support the state response, with 19 Soldiers and three Airmen, under the direction of the governor at a moment’s notice.
As part of one scenario during the exercise, strike team members of the 53rd CST assisted first responders from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, District 2, Tactical Rescue Team from South Bend as they dug through a rubble pile searching for mock victims. Other tasks that were included tested the team’s ability to setup a communication dispatch center and detect hazardous materials in devastated affected areas.
According to Lt. Col. Eric Honaker, it takes a combined effort by all agencies to accomplish all the tasks in this exercise. When asked about the reaction of the first responders Honaker said, “We could see the relief in the faces of the first responders when our team arrived to assist in operations.”
Honaker went on to explain that the 53rd CST duties were to provide initial advice on what the CBRN agent may be, assist first responders in that detection assessment process, and be the first military responders to the area.
First responders and Soldiers have to mesh together and protect individuals from possible threats, said Sgt. Neil Stone. “Cross training is beneficial to both sides.”
53rd CST was also active in interfacing with outside task force organizations. CST strike team members assisted first responders in minor equipment shortages, such as phone, internet and radio systems. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Galloway was instrumental in the setup of a dispatch center for operation to enhance communications on ground.
When asked about cost of supplying first responders with a myriad of resources and equipment, Galloway replied that the resources provided by CST come at low or no cost to civilian first responders because of state funding.
Participation in the National Level Exercise 2011 provided realistic, hands on training needed to ensure proficiency during a catastrophic earthquake and added benefit to both the CST strike team and the civilian first responders they worked alongside.
By Air Force Capt. John T. Stamm
123rd Airlift Wing
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. (5/19/11) – Amidst the chaos of moans, groans and cries for help, members of the 123rd Airlift Wing conducted patient triage and provided emergency medical care for more than a dozen men and women badly injured in an earthquake and subsequent plane crash here May 18.
Fortunately, the patents were volunteers, and their injuries weren’t real. Instead, they were part of two simulations designed to test the disaster-response capabilities of the Kentucky Air Guard medical group and multiple federal agencies, including the Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville.
In the first scenario, a C-130 Hercules carrying injured earthquake victims landed at the Kentucky Air Guard Base, where medical personnel were standing by to carry them off the plane and prepare them for transport to local hospitals.
Many of the “patients” had been evacuated from simulated hospitals and nursing homes in the notional earthquake zone, which meant they required special care as soon as they arrived in Louisville, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Beth Leistensnider, medical readiness officer for the 123rd Airlift Wing.
Although medical personnel from the wing assisted with patient care during the first scenario, the event primarily was intended to test the VA’s support of the National Disaster Medical System, Leistensnider explained.
Operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NDMS was created to manage the federal government’s overall medical response to major emergencies and disasters. In addition to the VA, the NDMS also partners with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Defense, state and local departments of health, and private hospitals.
“In the event of a large scale disaster such as an earthquake, the Louisville VA will be responsible for setting up a patient reception area on our base,” Leistensnider said.
“Under NDMS, federal authorities will arrange for patients to be flown here from affected areas, the patients will be received by the VA, and they will be transported to local healthcare facilities.”
The partnership between the VA and the Kentucky Air Guard is a valuable one, according William Young, emergency response coordinator for the Louisville VA.
“The base’s involvement in this operation is very critical,” Mr. Young said. “We don’t have the manpower or support to do this by ourselves. Additionally, the medical staff here provides us with invaluable training on how to provide the best care to a large number of patients.”
Leistensnider agreed that joint exercises offer tremendous benefits for patient care.
“The more contact we have with the different agencies we may be involved with during an emergency, the more effective we all become,” she said.
The second exercise held May 18 was limited to the wing’s 123rd Medical Group, whose members were tasked with rendering aid to earthquake victims who were subsequently involved in a plane crash. The scenario required triage of difficult and combative patients and emergency medical care under field conditions, with cases ranging from head trauma and fractured bones to a heart attack and a woman in labor.
“After notification of the incident, we set up our medical control and emergency operations center, set up our communications channels, practiced our system of patient tracking and provided treatment as patients arrived,” Leistensnider said.
“We didn’t know what was coming at us, which is a very realistic possibility. But we met our objectives by creating a realistic environment and performing our duties using the equipment we had available. With each exercise, we improve. The next time, we’ll be even more prepared.”
Both exercises augmented National Level Exercise 2011, a weeklong event designed to test the local, state and national response to a simulated earthquake along the New Madrid Fault. NLE 2011, which concludes May 20, includes participation from emergency responders in eight central states, the National Guard and multiple federal entities.
By Air Force Capt. John T. Stamm
123rd Airlift Wing
KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. (5/19/11) – The Kentucky National Guard stood up a Joint Air Operations Center here Monday to serve as the main command node for all of the state's fixed-wing and rotary aircraft that are participating in the largest earthquake-response exercise in U.S. history.
The weeklong event, called National Level Exercise 2011, is designed to test the local, state and national response to a simulated earthquake along the New Madrid Fault. It includes participation from emergency responders in eight central states, the National Guard and multiple federal entities like the Department of Defense and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Kentucky's Joint Air Operations Center, or JAOC, is supporting the exercise by prioritizing and allocating air assets for missions into affected areas across the Commonwealth, transporting personnel and equipment, and providing aeromedical evacuation and search-and-rescue capabilities as appropriate, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Kraus, who commands the JAOC and is Kentucky's Joint Forces Air Component Commander.
"Yesterday, we were alerted to the simulated earthquake, reported for duty, set up our facility here, checked our communication lines, and made sure our plans were in place to receive taskings and then allocate missions to either C-130 cargo planes, Black Hawk helicopters or whatever air assets we might have," he said.
"The initial focus was on search and rescue, so our job was to get teams from different parts of the state into the affected areas – primarily the 24 Western Kentucky counties deemed most at risk from a New Madrid earthquake."
The Kentucky Guard also performed airfield assessments, flying a joint team of Air and Army National Guardsmen to airports across the state, where they conducted tests and surveys to determine which runways were undamaged by the earthquake and could support humanitarian airlift operations if necessary.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing is heavily engaged in supporting the exercise at the national level. The unit deployed three C-130 Hercules aircraft Tuesday to transport aeromedical evacuation teams from Pope Air Force Base, N.C., and Scott Air Force, Ill., to Springfield-Branson National Airport in Springfield, Mo.
There, more than 40 members of the 123rd Airlift Wing's Contingency Response Element have set up an air hub to receive relief supplies and evacuate injured citizens to hospitals as far away as Iowa and Louisiana, said Lt. Col. David Mounkes, CRE commander.
The aeromedical evacuation flights took place aboard Kentucky Air Guard C-130s as directed by U.S. Transportation Command.
While the exercise is designed to assess response and recovery capabilities both nationally and regionally, Kentucky will use this week's events to update and augment the Commonwealth Earthquake Response Plan, Kraus said.
Air Force Col. Steve Bullard, vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, said the exercise also provides a valuable opportunity to work with scores of government agencies and civil authorities, so officials will know how to interact effectively in the event of a real emergency.
"The whole point of this exercise is to bring us together, to help us learn how to best work together to serve the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the United States," he said.
139th Airlift Wing provides C-130 transport to FEMA
Missouri National Guard report
COLUMBIA, Mo. (5/19/11) – The 139th Airlift Wing based at Rosecrans Airport in St. Joseph will play a role in the national level exercise, Cracked Earth.
Through a comprehensive evaluation process, this exercise will assess response and recovery capabilities both nationally and regionally in the event of a catastrophic earthquake in Missouri.
Beginning at 9 a.m. today, the crew will practice loading FEMA equipment and personnel for Missouri Task Force 1 at the Columbia Regional Airport.
This task force is FEMA’s search and rescue team. The exercise is intended to gauge how participants would react in case there is ever a similar disaster.
By Christine Pesout
U.S. Transportation Command
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (5/19/11) – U.S. Transportation Command joins other federal military and civilian agencies this week for an exercise to demonstrate a whole-of-government response to an earthquake along the New Madrid Seismic Zone, compounded by another soon after in the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone.
On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security took the lead in weeklong Tier 1 National Level Exercise 2011 with federal department and agency senior officials, their deputies and staff, and key operational elements, including the National Guard.
NLE 11 is a White House-directed, Congressionally mandated exercise which tests the response in the wake of a catastrophic earthquake.
NLE 11 incorporates several other exercises including the Joint Chiefs of Staff Positive Response 2011, U.S. Northern Command’s Ardent Sentry 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services Noble Life Saver 2011 the National Guard’s Vigilant Guard and USTRANSCOM’s Turbo Challenge 2011/Ultimate Caduceus 2011.
TC 11/UC 11 brings together the command, its components and partners for the command post and patient movement field training exercises. Exercise planners hail TCH 11/UC 11 as the most ambitious so far for USTRANSCOM, and the exercise provides the command an opportunity to gauge readiness against four exercise objectives:
• Plan and conduct mobility forces deployment and patient movement in support of DHS and USNORTHCOM requirements in a cyber constrained environment.
• Plan logistics sustainment for Defense Support of Civil Authorities.
• Conduct fused planning and manage current operations.
• Demonstrate continuity of operations in a physically degraded environment.
A team of controllers, observers and trainers supports the exercise. A deployable training team from U.S. Joint Forces Command Joint Warfighting Center is observing staff performance to ensure maximum learning throughout the event.
A Joint Interoperability Test Command team is also giving feedback on information assurance procedures.
Finally, USTRANSCOM's Joint Exercise Control Group is recording staff performance and ensuring the exercise stays on track.
Preparations for this year's exercise included an academics program, three-day instruction from USJFCOM and USTRANSCOM experts, and online courses on DSCA.
Two highlights set TCH 11/UC 11 apart from previous years' exercises. The first is the degree to which USTRANSCOM executes its continuity of operations plan. The second relates to the realism of operating in a cyber-constrained environment.
U.S. Northern Command report
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (5/16/11) – The National Guard, in cooperation with several federal agencies, including U.S. Northern Command, kicked off exercise ARDENT SENTRY 2011 today as part of the National Level Exercise 2011.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and others federal authorities are responding to a simulated earthquake along the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
The exercise starting today and concluding on May 20 incorporates several military exercises with the National Guard from eight central U.S. States: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee; and four FEMA regions.
As part of ARDENT SENTRY, USNORTHCOM will exercise the Contingency Dual Status Command initiative, which allows for a commissioned officer of the Regular Army or Regular Air Force or state Army National Guard or Air National Guard to command and control state and federal military assets in a Defense Support of Civil Authorities environment.
NLE 11 will validate existing plans, policies, and procedures, including the Federal Interagency Response Plan, state and regional New Madrid catastrophic plans.
Wisconsin National Guard report
MADISON, Wis. (5/16/11) – The Wisconsin National Guard's 54th Civil Support Team, in coordination with several state and local agencies, participated in the first of several planned events of the 2011 Vigilant Guard large-scale exercise.
The exercise began in Jefferson County at approximately 8 a.m. May 14 with a scenario where Boy Scouts, hiking on the Glacial Drumlin Trail, reported a chemical leak from a fertilizer tanker.
Local emergency responders responded to the request under the exercise scenario and determined they would need extra support.
By 9:30 a.m. the 54th CST advance party arrived on scene, with the main body arriving shortly thereafter.
The 54th CST's mission is to support local and state authorities at domestic emergency incident sites by identifying agents and substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with requests for additional military support.
Civilian authorities are always the first to respond to an incident. The National Guard is the nation's first military responder, supporting the governor and state emergency management agency.
"The CST provided safety of the scene, data modeling, communications and liaison between the incident commander and public health authorities," said Lt. Col. Timothy Covington, 54th CST commander. "This was a great opportunity to introduce our capabilities to local agencies and to show how those resources might be used in the event of a large scale disaster."
First Assistant Fire Chief Timothy Dorn of Jefferson County Fire Department, the incident commander for this event, agreed with Covington.
"This was a tremendous opportunity to learn about the resources, equipment and training that the CST can provide," Dorn said. "The CST was the difference between a prolonged [situation] and a fast and efficient resolution of this exercise."
Along with Jefferson County Fire Department and the CST, other local agencies participating in the event included the Lake Mills Fire Department, Johnson Creek Fire Department, Jefferson County Health Department and the Jefferson County Sherriff's Department.
"A large majority of the fire departments and emergency services personnel on scene today are volunteers," Dorn said. "This exercise provided a great opportunity to learn about collaborating across multiple volunteer organizations. I'd like to speak with Jefferson County about when we could schedule our next exercise."
The Vigilant Guard exercise continues for the remainder of the week with scenarios ranging from tornados and earthquakes to chemical spills and cyber attacks.
Nearly 3,000 participants – representing up to 48 federal, state, county, volunteer and private agencies – will respond to complex mock emergencies in several communities across the state during the exercise.
Kentucky National Guard report
FRANKFORT, Ky. (5/16/11) – Kentucky and several Central U.S. states, along with federal government agencies, volunteer organizations and the private sector began a week-long preparedness exercise over the weekend.
The exercise is based upon a catastrophic earthquake in the New Madrid Earthquake Zone, which is located in the heart of the United States.
The National Level Exercise 2011 (NLE 11) is part of the National Exercise Program.
The NEP provides the opportunity to practice existing capabilities to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from major disasters, man-made or natural, and other emergencies in an integrated fashion.
Participation includes federal and state agencies, military, local governments, private sector, volunteer organizations, private citizens and the president.
The NLE 11 exercise will practice initial incident response and recovery capabilities and test and validate existing plans, policies and procedures, including the Federal Interagency Response Plan-Earthquake, and State and regional New Madrid catastrophic plans.
“Is Kentucky ready for a 7.7 earthquake?” said John Heltzel, director for Kentucky Emergency Management. “No. Are we more prepared than we once were? Absolutely.”
“We learn something with each event or disaster, such as the historic flooding Kentucky just experienced, but the trick is to take lessons learned and turn them into lessons applied,” said Heltzel.
“This is the overarching objective of this signature exercise.”
While the exercise is designed to assess response and recovery capabilities both nationally and regionally, Kentucky will use the exercise to update and rewrite the Commonwealth Earthquake Response Plan.
The NLE 2011 is expected to be the largest joint exercise in United States’ history, and for the first time it is being based on a natural threat.
Everyone from private citizens, businesses, military, all private sectors and centers of government are invited to participate and exercise their own earthquake preparations.
The NLE 2011 will include activities with local responders, federal and state emergency management officials, private sector partners at multiple venues around the region, as well as in Washington, D.C., and various FEMA regional offices.
Private Citizens who complete daily participation will be sent a link to a downloadable KYEM NLE 2011 Certificate of Participation recognizing their individual efforts to better protect and prepare themselves and family in the event of a catastrophic disaster.