JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - The Alaska National Guard's 103rd Civil Support Team participated in exercise ORCA 2019 at various training locations in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, in partnership with multiple local emergency responders and other Guard CST units from July 15-17.

"The goal of the ORCA exercise is to strengthen relationships between local first responders, Civil Support Teams from other states, and the 103rd CST." This training environment is to prepare us in the event of a real-world or human-made disaster," said Lt. Col. Mortrud, commander of the 103rd CST.

This year's ORCA training events were conducted at the Alaska State Fairgrounds, Palmer Fire and Rescue Training Center, Fire Station 6-2 in Wasilla, and the Alaska Railroad rail crossing at Pittman Road.

"The scenarios simulated in the exercise are numerous CBRN laboratory setups, along with the processing of intelligence to determine intended uses and locations for possible attacks," said Mortrud. "They help ensure the response community not only trusts each other but also understand the capabilities each entity will bring to a real-world event."

CSTs were established to deploy rapidly to assist a local incident commander in determining the nature and extent of a CBRN attack or incident; provide expert technical advice on CBRN response operations, and help identify and support the arrival of follow-on state and federal military response assets.

More than 200 military and civilian personnel were involved in ORCA 2019, including about 120 National Guardsmen from the seven states involved. CST units from Mississippi, Montana, Utah, Nevada, Hawaii and Washington joined Alaska's CST, and the Alaska National Guard aviation battalion, as well as the Joint Operations Center, participated.

Participating local agencies included Mat-Su Emergency Management, Mat-Su Emergency Medical Services and Hazardous Materials, Anchorage Police Department, Wasilla Police Department, Alaska State Troopers, Houston Fire Department, Palmer Fire Department, Alaska Railroad, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Alaska State Fairgrounds. The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management also supported the exercise.

ORCA is a biannual exercise that began in 2013.

"I believe these exercises are not only beneficial but crucial to the success of the Alaska response community," said Mortrud. "This exercise allows us the opportunity to train with the different local responders and other states CST's, building relationships that will enhance our response to local events."