FORT MCCOY, Wis. and FORT GORDON, Ga., June 23, 2011 -- Army Reserve units join forces with emergency responders of five states to create a culture of preparedness during Exercise Red Dragon 2011.

Red Dragon is an Army Reserve Command directed Homeland Operations and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Consequence, or CBRNE, Management Response Force exercise. This exercise is used to develop, train and assess the capabilities of Army Reserve forces identified for Defense Support of Civilian Authorities.

The exercise also helps develop and sustain Army Reservist technical skills. The annual exercise began in 2000 as a small exercise involving only a few hundred Soldiers and has grown larger throughout the years. RD 11 was conducted in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

“This year’s exercise involves over 2,000 chemical, medical, logistics and signal Soldiers over several states,” said Col. Patricia Carlson, commander of the 415th Chemical Brigade. “Our support and our Soldiers conducting this exercise come from throughout the United States.”

“This exercise is important because it gives Army Reservist and civilian emergency responders an opportunity to unify and work together in the event of any type of catastrophe,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Dawson, the commander of the 472nd Chemical Battalion. “Preparedness is not just for us, it is for the communities as well."

“The Red Dragon exercise is important because it will give the civilian sector an opportunity to work with Reserve units so we may be able to work together as one unit,” said Mary Casey-Lockyer, emergency preparedness and response coordinator for Northwest Hospital in Arlington Heights, Ill.

During one event at the Arlington Heights location, Soldiers gave a riveting performance by acting as casualties to aid the emergency responders with their preparedness training, and the hospital allowed the Reserve unit to use its decontamination equipment in return.

“This exercise is very beneficial because it gives us realistic training on reacting to a mass casualty incident,” continued Casey-Lockyer.

"We want to learn what not to do," Maj. Jeff Weir said. "We also want to learn about the unexpected, so if [something] does happen, we're covering all our bases."

"You never know really when something like this is going to happen," said Pell City, Ala. firefighter Thomas Graves. "So you just have to train when you can."

It’s just a drill, at least for now. This and other training exercises help to prepare Soldiers to assist local authorities with large scale disasters that they cannot handle alone. Like the minutemen of the past, Army Reserve units train to maintain the highest possible level of preparedness because they can be called at anytime, anywhere, to answer the call of its nation in a combat or civil capacity.