MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Georgia National Guard Army and Air units participated in a joint exercise led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the Memphis Fire Department Training Center in Memphis, Tenn., June 3-7.
Memphis Shake 2019 simulated an earthquake which destroyed numerous buildings in the Memphis area due to proximity to the New Madrid fault line. The Georgia National Guard's portion of the exercise centered on the collapse of a large-scale chemical plant.
The Marietta-based 201st Regional Support Group FEMA Region 4 Homeland Response Force participated in the exercise. The 201st is comprised of specialists in chemical decontamination, collapsed building search and extraction, military police, transportation elements and a Georgia Air National Guard medical team from the 116th Air Control Wing.
"Our mission includes elements capable of conducting search and extraction, decontamination and medical triage of those victims," said Col. Alexander V. McLemore, commander, 201st Regional Support Group. "Years ago, Georgia decided to align units with a wartime mission similar to the HRF requirements under one command; our training very often aligns nicely between the two missions."
Headquarters, 201st RSG, returned from an overseas tour to Iraq in May and took the opportunity to train and teach new and current members to provide Defense Support of Civil Authorities during disaster response.
"Fortunately, the element that went forward was able to focus entirely on their deployment mission as all HRF requirements were met by the folks that stayed behind," said McLemore. "That said, the training and eventual evaluation at the end of this year (EXEVAL) is critical to the unit's ability to perform the HRF mission."
The Georgia National Guard has a dual mission of providing ready and trained Soldiers to provide force structure to the active component and its domestic response mission to render assistance to save lives, mitigate suffering and protect property.
To accomplish this mission, the 201st trains and coordinates with civilian agencies before potential disasters to build these relationships before activation.
"The first time we meet one of our agency partners of local, civilian counterparts should not be after a disaster has occurred," said McLemore. "Constant dialogue and interaction with our partners - to include joint exercises - is not just a part of the National Response Framework, but is vital to our ability to perform our mission when called."
The Marietta-based 265th Chemical Battalion has been a significant part of Georgia's response capability since 2012. Its units receive and maintain specific readiness levels in manning, training and capabilities to perform this mission.
"We have specific domestic response training requirements to be a part of the national CBRN Response Enterprise," said Lt. Col. Charles B. Curl, commander, 265th Chemical Battalion. "We take our domestic mission very seriously and train hard to be able to save lives and mitigate suffering when the call comes."
The 201st is scheduled to complete three more large-scale domestic response exercises this in anticipation for their upcoming external evaluation to be certified as ready.
"The more exercises we can do between now and our external evaluation in December the better," said Curl. "Our goal is to be always ready for a domestic response call-out, but you can never train enough and there is always room to improve."