FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. — Pennsylvania National Guard members from around the commonwealth participated in a winter storm tabletop exercise Dec. 20.
The virtual exercise was coordinated by the Pennsylvania National Guard Joint Staff at the Joint Operations Center at Fort Indiantown Gap. It involved representatives from Pennsylvania’s three geographic task forces — PTF North, PTF South and PTF West — and its two functional task forces — TF Aviation and TF Support.
The different task force headquarters participated from numerous locations across Pennsylvania.
“The intent of the exercise was to be a rehearsal for winter storm activations this winter and also an introduction for anyone new to [domestic operations] either at the Joint Staff and at the PTF or task force level,” said Army Maj. James O’Shea, domestic operations training officer and one of the exercise’s coordinators.
The scenario for the exercise was the arrival of a major snowstorm in the center of the state involving all five task forces.
The exercise was broken down into four parts of a winter storm activation: alert, assemble, deploy and recovery.
“It was a fairly typical mission that the National Guard does,” said Army Maj. John Sauser, future plans officer on the Joint Staff and one of the exercise’s coordinators. “We had a fake winter storm and had some state missions that we gave the units to assess their response, like where they put their troops and vehicles.”
This type of exercise is conducted regularly, but it typically involves one or two task forces, not all five, O’Shea said.
“Any given year, both at the task force level and at the joint staff, you’re bound to have some turnover and people who are new to the DOMOPS process,” O’Shea said.
While O’Shea was unsure how many people participated in the exercise, he noted there were 40 locations logged in, many with multiple people participating.
O’Shea and Sauser agreed that the exercise went very well.
“Next time around, we’ll probably plan it earlier,” O’Shea said. “It didn’t impact us this year, but next year we could get hit with a winter storm in early December and we would’ve missed the opportunity to have a rehearsal.”