By Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson, Army North PAOAugust 23, 2011
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. " The military's Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Force assumed the exercise mission from state response forces here Aug. 18 while rehearsing the nation's tiered response capabilities during Vibrant Response 12, a U.S. Northern Command field training exercise conducted by U.S. Army North.
Within hours of arriving, the DCRF was performing search and extraction missions at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex.
The service members worked late into the night after small explosions at the training refinery simulated large-scale explosions. Responders performed mass casualty and decontamination for the simulated "victims" of the explosion.
"It was key that Title 10 (federal) forces arrive quickly and immediately begin assisting civil authorities in responding to this incident," said Paul Condon, Exercise Control Forward deputy director, U.S. Army North.
In the United States, local and state authorities have numerous forces and capabilities to draw upon to conduct lifesaving and life-sustaining operations following a disaster. But when the scope of the disaster requires additional assistance, the U.S. military has additional response capabilities to support civil authorities and to perform a variety of specialized missions as part of an overall federal effort.
The DCRF is a 5,200-person federal capability designed to assist civilian first responders to save lives, relieve human suffering and facilitate response operations following catastrophic CBRN events. The DCRF deploys when directed as DoD's initial federal CBRN response force to provide search and rescue, decontamination, medical, aviation, communications and logistical support.
During Vibrant Response 12, local, state and federal disaster responders are rehearsing an escalating disaster after a simulated 10-kiloton nuclear detonation Aug. 16 in downtown Cincinnati. During the first 48 hours, local, state and federal elements worked quickly to save lives and mitigate suffering while additional federal responders from around the U.S. mobilized and moved to the disaster site.
"We have 18 aircraft here: eight CH-47 Chinooks, six UH-60s for medical missions and four UH-60s for general purpose missions," said Col. Randall Schwallie, Task Force Aviation commander, part of the DCRF. "We brought them from Fort Lewis, Wash.; Fort Knox, Ky.; Clearwater, Fla.; Fort Carson, Colo.; and Ft. Eustis, Va. The move went well because we have aviation support facilities throughout the U.S."
Schwallie said his personnel are trained for military air missions, but the exercise is good for training his personnel to work with the large variety of military and civilian disaster response units and personnel.
"This is our chance to integrate with other task forces and rehearse support to civil authorities such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security," he said. Schwallie and the other aviation personnel are part of the 11th Aviation Command, Fort Knox, Ky.
Aviation assets are critical in a disaster, especially when roads are blocked or people need to be evacuated or receive immediate medical care. Aviation units also support logistics missions, getting food, water, medical supplies and other supplies to those that need it.
The most challenging part of disaster operations is maintaining enough fuel during air operations, Schwallie said.
"Basically, with all the birds in the air, we burn a gallon of fuel a second," said Schwallie.
Avaition personnel were excited about the mission. "This is why I joined the Army " to help my family and friends," said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Fisher, CBRN staff noncommissioned officer, Task Force Aviation. The native of Louisville, Ky., said he appreciated the opportunity to serve in a unique homeland mission.
This is the initial confirmation exercise for the DCRF, which officially assumes its mission Oct. 1. The DCRF's structured to provide more lifesaving capability to an incident faster than the previous force.