ORISKANY, New York -- It's a scenario everyone dreads. A disaster of such magnitude it overwhelms local first responders. The local community tells the state governor, "We need more help." Who does the governor call? He calls in a Homeland Response Force made up of Army and Air National Guardsmen from the region.
To prepare for such a disaster nearly 600 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico who make up the FEMA Region II HRF, participated in a training and evaluation exercise April 28 to May 2 at the New York State Preparedness Training Center here.
The exercise was overseen by evaluators from U.S. Army North's Civil Support Training Activity, and augmented by military and civilian personnel from the Joint Interagency Training and Education Center.
A HRF is made up of about 570 Army and Air National Guard members who will work with and assist state officials and local first responders with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents within the region if called upon by the governor.
It consists of a command and control team, a medical team, a search and extraction/recovery team, a decontamination team, and a security team. The Department of Defense has established HRFs in each of the 10 FEMA regions across the country.
Early in the exercise CSTA and JITEC subject-matter experts prepared, trained and evaluated the HRF's ability to respond to three different emergency scenarios with the last two days focusing on the team's evaluation.
The scenarios consisted of multiple explosions containing radioactive material and chemical blister agents at various high-traffic locations such as hotels and sports stadiums, said James Larsen, Delta Division, CSTA.
While the HRF as a concept remains the same, the units fulfilling the roles within the organization change every few years due to deployment schedules and other operational requirements. Therefore training and evaluation is conducted every 24 to 36 months for each of the 10 HRFs.
"We rotate this operation among various units within the Guard," said Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, Adjutant General, New York National Guard. "This allows us to build depth throughout the force and gain more experience."
After completing the evaluation the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New York National Guard, will take command of the HRF.
"This capacity in its entirety has not been used yet," said Murphy. "We (the National Guard) are very good at assisting with floods and tornados but this type of disaster takes it to another level. So while we do practice, we pray we never have to do this for real."
The units that comprise the Region II HRF are:
- The 27th IBCT, New York National Guard, which provides overall command and control of the HRF.
- 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment, New York National Guard, which decontaminates people and animals affected by the incident.
- Company A, 427th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, New York National Guard, the search and extraction/recovery team.
- Airmen from the five Wings of the New York Air National Guard provide medical personnel to triage casualties.
- 2nd Battalion, 113th Infantry Regiment, New Jersey National Guard provide security at the incident site as well as the decontamination site.