Soldiers from the Mission Command Training Program (MCTP) at Leavenworth, Kansas supported the disaster response exercise Vibrant Response 22, April 22 to May 13. They helped train and certify Joint Task Force-Civil Support, Task Force-76, and Task Force-46’s ability to respond to a catastrophic disaster involving a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) incident in the U.S.
“In this mission, the task forces’ main purpose is to provide Title 10 support to the federal coordinating authority and the state joint task force,” said Col. Robert Magee, chief of Operations Group B, MCTP.
“They perform support operations and future operations while tracking the delivery of capability and supplies to the supported agencies, such as federal agency partners and state and local response teams on the ground.”
U.S. Army North led the exercise involving 1,250 military and civilian personnel from multiple military services and federal agencies distributed across Colorado, Utah, and Michigan.
“While the threats to our homeland are complex, our ability to rapidly respond with our interagency partners is vital to maintaining our strategic advantage,” said Lt. Gen. John R. Evans, Jr., U.S. Army North commander.
Army North officials also said, “the exercise helps assure the nation’s readiness by ensuring that units -- regardless of service, component or state -- are interoperable and are ready to operate as national CBRN responders.”
The task forces assembled at their training areas to practice receiving, organizing, and employing lifesaving and life-sustaining federal CBRN response forces, immediate response forces, and other federalized forces, per the national response framework and incident command system.
MCTP provided observer-coach-trainers from its operations groups to support. Their expertise in staff processes across the joint functions such as command and control, sustainment, and protection proved valuable to the task forces’ training experience.
“We’re another set of eyes," said Magee. Our job is to help the commander and the staff see themselves.
Command and control was a key focus area. The task forces have an enormous task of integrating diverse capabilities and formations deploying from all over the U.S. and other assisting countries that are part of the Department of Defense’s CBRN response enterprise.
The task forces' headquarters assume tactical or operational control of the various elements. They employ them to provide critical support requested by lead federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The nation’s federal CBRN response has dozens of military units allocated that deliver a range of capabilities and assistance such as CBRN detection and decontamination, search and rescue, medical treatment, aviation, communications, and logistical support.
MCTP typically coaches and trains corps and divisions during warfighter exercises, which similarly involve two and three-star headquarters orchestrating the activities of disparate formations in high-tempo, high-stakes operations in a rapidly evolving environment.
That experience was key to helping the task forces achieve their training objectives. Some of the objectives included increasing proficiency to rapidly deploy, establish command and control capabilities and processes, and lead various operations and subordinate task forces.
“The exercise stressed the task forces at echelon,” said Magee. They had to receive reports, process reports and do their own staff procedures and then report to their higher headquarters.
Magee commended Army North’s leadership and support to the task forces during the exercise.
“They exercised the whole staff, which is always hard to replicate. It was good push to integrate their lower major subordinate commands and their own formations,” said Magee.
Orchestrating a distributed exercise with the level of the complexity involved required a total team effort. It undoubtedly strengthened the participants’ readiness to respond to a disaster alongside partners from different levels and areas of government.
Amid the training success, Magee still stressed the importance of continuous improvement.
“Just like any other organization coming out of a major exercise, there are always things at the end that you can continue to train to refine your skill sets and improve to a higher level,” said Magee.