COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Missouri National Guard Homeland Response Force recently completed its external evaluation in Columbia, Missouri, earning top marks from evaluators.

The recognition the team received for its performance is a testament to constant training and unwavering dedication, said Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, the Adjutant General.

"We always expect success, however, I couldn't be prouder of the job these Soldiers and Airmen did," Danner said. "They took on every challenge professionally, and really raised the bar for Homeland Response Forces across the country. They attained the highest possible marks in 92 percent of the categories they were evaluated on."

Over a 36 hours period, the team was tested on a wide range of capabilities in a scenario based around an explosion in a major urban area, said Col.William J. McKinney, the Homeland Response Force commander.

"We received astonishing results -- success like this doesn't just happen," McKinney said. "This is the result of hundreds of hours of preparation and intense training over the course of years. Our team really stepped up, and I am very proud of every one of them. I was told during the out brief Missouri's performance was 'by far the best performance' of all the teams rated by our evaluators this year."

During the exercise, the team was tested on its ability to run decontamination lines, secure its area of operations, and command units from different states. The team passed all parts of the evaluation, and received the highest possible rating on 34 of 37 areas. The exercise also tested the National Guard's ability to perform Defense Support to Civil Authorities, by work alongside civilian leaders.

"All disasters are local to someone, and when we are called into action, our job is to work in conjunction with civilian leadership," McKinney said. "We bring a lot of capabilities to a response but ultimately, we are there to support, whether that is a local fire chief, police chief or the local emergency management director who might just be a farmer. We are always supporting the governor of a state, when we work under his authority. Our mission is to help civilians get a situation under control - once they are able to handle the situation themselves, we return home."

The FEMA Region VII Homeland Response Force is one of only 10 such teams in the United States. Each team is comprised of more than 500 Soldiers and Airmen, with its core mission being a response to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive events.

During the exercise, training was split between the Missouri Army National Guard's Columbia armory and the Boone County Fire Protection District's training site next door.

In the armory, Guard members dealt with a wide range of command and control issues. Soldiers and Airmen worked through a number of challenges including command and control, planning, intelligence, logistics, finance, personnel and signal issues.

Outside, Guard members ran decontamination lines, conducted medical triage, manned security checkpoints, and ran a tactical operations center. There, role players acted as people coming to the area for assistance.

"The role players add a realism you can't get through simulations," McKinney said. "They are a reminder to our Guardsmen that this training isn't just about checking boxes - it's about saving lives. Our team did an outstanding job throughout the 36-hour exercise and are exceedingly well-trained at what they do. It was an honor to observe them demonstrate to others how well they can do their jobs when called upon."