Vigilant Guard 2009
Lt. Col. Hiram of the Mexican Army tests Lt. Col. Chavez of the Mexican Marines for the presence of chemical agents during the Vigilant Guard exercise, June 19. The United States Northern Command invited foreign military guests from Mexico, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Bahamas, and Senegal to learn about how the U.S. military communicates and works with civilian emergency responders.

DES MOINES, Iowa (Army News Service, June 22, 2009) -- The National Guard tested its emergency-response capabilities and strengthened its relationships with other emergency-response agencies over the weekend at Vigilant Guard 2009 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Vigilant Guard is a multi-state training exercise in response to homeland security threats, natural and man-made disasters.

The main training scenario of the exercise featured a train derailment with unknown chemical agents aboard the train. It was connected to a larger scenario that involved local law-enforcement agents raiding a building and encountering explosives and bomb-making materials.

The airmen of the explosive ordnance disposal section of the 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron from Louisville, Ky., worked with local authorities to develop and set up many of the scenarios.

Some of the scenarios were based off events the local law enforcement handled in the past, according to Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Lou Corner, EOD flight chief with the 123rd CES.

"They went through one of their old cases, they had a serial bomber here, so we based some of the scenarios off of the serial bomber's case," Corner said.

Vigilant Guard is a valuable resource, said Corner.

"It gives the teams a chance to actually get out here and run through all their procedures," said Corner. "A lot of times you just don't have the training venue where you can go out and fire your tools and use live explosives to do your training."

The emergency response agencies would not be as effective without the help of the Joint Operations and Emergency Operations Centers at the Iowa National Guard Joint Task Force Headquarters, officials said. The JOC and EOC work together to receive, analyze, and carry out missions throughout the state.

"Think of the JOC as the brain and part of the nervous system," said Maj. Mark Coble, battle captain for the JOC, "and the rest of the National Guardsmen within the state as the large muscles and bones to provide those support assets for the rest of the state during a domestic operation."

Vigilant Guard also had a global component: a group of international observers were treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the exercise.

"A while back we participated in a conference in Osaka, Japan, and visited Japan's Homeland Defense Forces," said Brig. Gen. Bob Felderman, deputy director of plans, policy, and strategy for U.S. Northern Command. "Japan and Korea are among our focus nations that we provide equipment and training to, so as these relationships grew, we decided we wanted to arrange an opportunity for them to come visit the U.S. and see our operations and many more are to apply the scenario at Vigilant Guard in their own country."

"We have similar environmental and agricultural backgrounds," said Col. Chang Kwoun Park from Seoul, South Korea. "We also had avian flu problems. It is very important to see how problems and disasters are handled, to exchange information and it is a wonderful opportunity."

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