by Staff Sgt. Brad Staggs, Atterbury-Muscatatuck Public Affairs
For most Americans, the possibility of an attack on American soil is unthinkable, something for others to deal with. Those others happen to be the National Guard Homeland Response Forces around the United States.
The HRF not only train constantly to respond to the threat of a man-made attack, they train even more diligently to respond to a natural disaster such as a hurricane or flooding. They have become the country’s first line of military assistance.
In March, the Missouri HRF team -- headquartered in Jefferson City and led by the 70th Troop Command under the guidance of Col. Wendul Hagler -- came to Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in southern Indiana in order to train for and conduct their final validation exercise as one of the ten official HRF teams around the nation.
“The HRF teams are split up around the nation by the ten Federal Emergency Management Agency regions,” explained 70th Troop Command Planning Officer Maj. Shannon Bledsoe. “Missouri is part of Region VII along with Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa.”
The ten HRF teams work together to help each other and, within the region that each team covers, all activity is of a joint nature with the Air and Army National Guard units working hand-in-hand with governmental and civil agencies to help people. But it wasn’t always that way.
In January of 2010, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates signed the Resource Management Decision 700 which called for the restructuring of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Consequence Management forces for use in the homeland under one joint umbrella.
In Fiscal Year 2011, two HRF teams (Ohio and Washington) were validated with the remaining eight to be validated in Fiscal year 2012. Missouri was the latest and fifth in 2012 to make their validation.
The HRF teams are part of a larger Department of Defense CBRN Enterprise which can be called upon to respond to any homeland disaster imaginable.
According to the 2011 Army Posture Statement, just a few of the areas that Department of Defense CBRN teams responded to in 2011 were:
• Provided support to the Department of Homeland Security on the southwest border
• Provided support to Counter Drug/Narcotics Agencies
• Responded to flooding of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and tributaries
• Provided technical personnel to Japan Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Crisis
• Responded to Tornadoes in Ark, Mass, Mo, and Okla.
• Responded to Wildfires in Ariz, N.M., and Fla.
• Provided support to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, TX.
• Participated in the 2011 National Level Exercise
• Supported all space shuttle launches
In order to become a validated HRF, the 70th Troop Command spent 12 days at MUTC setting up their equipment, going through mock exercises, tearing it back down, and doing it again, all to prepare for their final three-day execution evaluation.
“Our job is to anticipate the culmination of forces and be able to sustain them,” said Col. Hagler. “With over 5,000 troops from the Air and Army Guard in the Missouri HRF, management of forces becomes vital.”
The Missouri HRF’s validation exercise looked at how they responded to a high yield explosive and chemical agent, a mass casualty event, the search and extraction of victims, and the medical assistance given to the victims.
“The moral of the troops is absolutely outstanding,” Hagler gushed. “To wear a chemical protection suit and stand there in this weather for eight hours a day is incredible. Individuals have a sense of responsibility to their job, especially knowing that this is to help our fellow citizens.”
For three days of validation, the HRF was put through crawl/walk/run scenarios to evaluate what they had already been taught and tweak things that needed to be fixed. By the end of the exercise, the HRF was on a steady role of processing victims through their medical station and rescuing victims from multiple scenarios.
Finally, the word came that the Missouri HRF had passed their validation exercise, but Hagler said this was just the beginning.
“The validation is just one step,” Hagler explained. “Now the work is really in sustaining this level of training. Muscatatuck gave us as fair and close a representation of reality as we could get. I came here during Ohio’s validation exercise and couldn’t imagine going anywhere else for this kind of exercise.”
120321-Z-YX241-126: Soldiers from the Missouri Homeland Response Force set up a tent that will be connected to several tents in order to create a decontamination and medical station for their validation exercise at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center on March 21. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Staggs)
120321-Z-YX241-167: Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, visits with Soldiers and Airmen of the Missouri Homeland Response Force who are at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Ind., to validate their skills on Wednesday, March 21. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Staggs)
120322-Z-YX241-044: Members of the Missouri Homeland Response Force prepare to transport mock victims to the decontamination and medical stations during their validation exercise at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center on March 22. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Staggs)
120322-Z-YX241-062: Members of the Missouri Homeland Response Force decontaminate a mock victim of a nuclear bomb contaminate at the decontamination and medical stations during their validation exercise at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center on March 22. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Staggs)