By Sgt. Terence EwingsMarch 19, 2013
MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. - Approximately 72 hours after a simulated 10-kiloton nuclear device detonated in a major Midwestern city, the Marine Chemical, Biological Incident Response Force continued efforts to decontaminate, treat and evacuate displaced civilians during the Vibrant Response 13 training exercise, July 29.
As part of Vibrant Response, a major training exercise conducted by U.S. Northern Command and led by U.S. Army North, Marines demonstrated their ability to support Joint Task Force Civil Support, which is responsible for aiding local, state and federal authorities in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
"We've conducted training with police, fire departments and pretty much every kind of local or state agency," said Capt. Adam Birchenough, the CBIRF's alpha team senior incident response force commander. "This exercise is different, because we also get the opportunity to work with other military branches."
In the event a real-life scenario were to occur, JTF-CS units are responsible for supporting the civilian authorities who are in the lead to conduct lifesaving and life-sustaining missions, provide logistics support to a theater of operations and perform technical chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear consequence management tasks and civil support plans.
During the training venue, the CBIRF received a call from civilian authorities where a search and extraction team was needed to rescue displaced civilians, played by role-players.
Birchenough, who is responsible for coordinating the identification and evacuation of any wounded civilians that might be found during a CBRN mission, believes participating in the Vibrant Response 13 exercise will continue to add to the marine unit's ability to support civilian authorities in the event they are called upon.
"We get to support the American people by remaining ready in case something happens," said Birchenough, a native of Homer, N.Y. "It makes me feel great knowing we get another opportunity to train on these skills during this exercise."
Responding to the request to provide evacuation and technical rescue support to a collapsed building with displaced civilians, the CBIRF arrived on the scene to assist live role-players acting as "survivors" and mannequins posing as wounded displaced civilians.
After rescuing ambulatory citizens from the scene, the Marines entered the collapsed building to secure it with bracing materials so they could further search the area for survivors in need of aid.
The Marines used electric jackhammers, rotary saws and other high-powered tools to maneuver through each of the four levels and evacuate the civilians.
"We train all the time, constantly doing different drills to sustain our proficient lifesaving skills," said Lance Cpl. Andrew Oberich, a CBRN specialist assigned to the CBIRF. "It feels really good to show off our skills and come out here to save lives.
Oberich was one of the first responders on the scene and assisted the survivors by escorting them to the decontamination site so they could be cleansed of any nuclear particles and further evaluated to determine if additional medical treatment is needed.
After treating wounded citizens, Oberich re-entered the area to assist in stabilizing the building so other CBIRF members could enter the site and evacuate any remaining personnel.
"We've done a lot of operations where we have trained with local and civilian authorities," said Oberich. "But I don't believe you can ever train too much. If something happens we want to be ready, and I believe we will [be]."
Approximately 5,000 service members and civilians will participate in the Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Force phase of the Vibrant Response training exercise throughout the next week.
The CBIRF will continue supporting JTF-CS while conducting the Vibrant Response 13 training exercise, which is scheduled to conclude mid-August.