By Spc. Ashley Low, Colorado National GuardApril 13, 2018
CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The Colorado National Guard partnered with more than a dozen federal, tribal, state and local agencies to hone their response capabilities and assist civil authorities and residents during a disaster response exercise April 3-6.
The exercise, Alpine Guard 2018, involved a coordinated response to power and communication failures caused by tornado and flood scenarios affecting Morgan, Elbert, Archuleta, and Denver counties, and the Southern Ute Tribe.
Participating agencies included the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, CONG, Wyoming National Guard, county sheriff offices, Boulder Fire-Rescue, Fort Morgan Police Department, U.S. Forest Service and a number of other local agencies and businesses.
Alpine Guard 2018 was part of a statewide effort to provide a safe and realistic training environment for comprehensive practice and development of skills in a simulated natural disaster scenario.
"Joint exercises help us to learn the advantages of being able to operate effectively with our civilian counterparts," U.S. Army Col. Mechelle Tuttle, chief of the joint staff for Joint Task Force -- Centennial, said. JTF-C integrates forces by providing command and control for military forces in support of civil support operations in Colorado and for CONG forces responding throughout the nation.
The Alpine Guard exercise helps multiple agencies learn each other's capabilities. It also helps each entity understand how to respond and work together more effectively.
Colorado's State Partnership Program with Slovenia, in its 25th year, allowed delegates to participate in a tour and observe the collaborated efforts to handle natural disasters.
Slovenian delegates, Minister of Defense Andreja Katic, Chief of Defense Maj. Gen. Alan Geder, and others, had the opportunity to learn more about the exercise from the Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Kevin R. Klein, and the Director of the Office of Emergency Management Mike Willis, who is also the Assistant Adjutant General -- Space and Cyber, for Joint Force Headquarters-Colorado.
"Our philosophy is a quick, aggressive, initial response and that saves us money in the long run," Klein said.
During the briefing to the Slovenian delegation, Klein said that it is important to deploy National Guard resources as early as necessary, because they can always be recalled.
The Alpine Guard 2018 exercise facilitates real-world practice deploying troops to different areas of the state for various missions in support of civil authorities.
The training operation involved scenarios such as mass casualty response, missing persons search and rescue, and other scenarios that would overwhelm available local first responder assets in the event of a large-scale crisis.
"When you have a plan, it may be good right up until the point of execution," Tuttle said. "During real-world scenarios, we have to constantly be adapting our plan."
One of the intended outcomes of the exercise was for the CONG to capitalize on skills and training for federal missions to support Colorado communities.
"We are always in a support role to our civilian counterparts," said Tuttle. "Supporting neighbors in a time of need is the most rewarding mission the military has to offer."