By Scott T. Sturkol, Fort McCoy Public AffairsJune 30, 2014
FORT MCCOY, WIS. -- Army Reserve Soldiers affiliated with a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) mission completed training and evaluation events at Fort McCoy in June. The training was part of a process to take on a multi-year mission supporting the Department of Homeland Security by Oct. 1.
Soldiers with the 388th CBRN Company of Junction City, Wis., and 704th Chemical Company of Arden Hills, Minn., completed the evaluation process with U.S. Army North (ARNORTH).
Prior to the exercise evaluation, ARNORTH instructors provided the CBRN Soldiers with hands-on training, equipment and experience, said 2nd Lt. James Blount, officer in charge of external evaluation for the 388th CBRN Company.
ARNORTH, when directed by the commander of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), deploys response forces to support to civil authorities to save lives, prevent further injury and provide temporary critical support.
The June 15-16 evaluations involved each unit's response to a civilian mass casualty scenario requiring decontamination procedures, and assessment and coordination of medical aid.
The evaluation aligned with the homeland mission each unit will be assuming to assist military and civil authorities in the event of a natural disaster, chemical emergency or terrorist attack anywhere within the United States.
"The evaluation involved everything that we do (as a unit) as soon as we interact with a civilian incident commander," Blount said.
The evaluations began with a phone call to each unit's officer in charge that provided the scenario. The units then arrived on scene and set up their equipment and decontamination processing areas within 90 minutes.
Getting ready for the evaluations took months of preparation and hard work by all Soldiers, Blount said.
"Everyone has done well," Blount said. "The NCOs (noncommissioned officers) have really pulled a lot of the weight and got us ready to where we are now."
First Sgt. Gary Boda of the 388th said his unit spent many drill weekends completing computer-based training, equipment set-up practice and preparation for the evaluation.
"We also completed a deployment line where everyone received shots, updated their medical information, completed powers of attorney and other tasks," Boda said. "We did it just as if we were deploying even though we are going to support a homeland mission."
Boda also said to be able to prepare his Soldiers at Fort McCoy and to have the evaluation at the post has been essential to their success to take on their upcoming mission.
"Coming to Fort McCoy is huge for us," Boda said. "It's right in our back yard -- we're only 70 miles away. The resources here are fantastic for us."
Three days before their evaluation, 388th Site Manager Sgt. Deidre Gumney worked with her fellow Soldiers to perform a practice set-up of their equipment to make sure everything was in order. Through the whole process, she believes her unit made exceptional progress.
"We have a lot of good Soldiers. They are smart, willing to learn more, and we all work well together as a team," Gumney said.
"Doing a practice set up allows us to see what we can change, what we did well, and what we can do better as we move forward."
Spc. Erin Schneider, 388th administrative and logistical operations assistant, agreed. "We've done a really good job in getting ready and every day we get better," she said.
During the exercise evaluations, Craig Palmer of Advanced Training and Education Consultants -- a contracted company supporting ARNORTH -- was the civilian in charge of operations for the scenario. He interacted with each unit on mission planning and command-and-control information flow.
"We provided information and processes that are the civilian standard," Palmer said. "At the same time, while they responded, we also helped support them so they can have the tools to be successful."
The next step for both the 388th and the 704th will be to further test their skills at Camp Atterbury, Ind., when they participate in Vibrant Response 2014. Vibrant Response is a major incident-response exercise that brings together local, state and federal agencies and Department of Defense resources, and is conducted by NORTHCOM and led by ARNORTH.