Joint Task Force 71 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), the outfit custodian of the National Guard Bureau's FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force mission, spent the week demonstrating its detection and decontamination capabilities while highlighting its role in supporting civil partners during emergencies.
"Being at the TDEM conference allows us to showcase a little bit about who we are and how to get a hold of us," said Sgt. 1st Class Reggie Book, acting 1st Sgt. for the 6th Civil support Team. "We bring 22 fully-trained HAZMAT techs to the scene, plus the necessary support equipment to support ourselves for 72 hours."
The integration of the National Guard into emergency response efforts is part of the ongoing charge to capitalize on available assets and deliver on the promise to ensure the highest quality protection in an ever-changing world.
"Right now, across the state, communities are learning how to do things differently," said W. Nim Kidd, Assistant Director for the Texas Department of Public Safety. "We understand that our plans are shaped by real-world events, and we seize change as the opportunity for improvement."
Hosted annually by the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the conference stresses the value of interdepartmental cooperation and welcomes the National Guard to the fight in saving lives of Texans.
"The National Guard folks are our neighbors," said Mike Miller, State Coordinator for the Department of Public Safety Region 6, part of the Texas Division of Emergency Management. "They're our partners in what we do, and most importantly the resource that we call upon for the things that we absolutely can't get done without them."
The resources offered by the National Guard come in the form of direct support to the first responders on the scene, never as an autonomous military presence.
"As we move out, we connect, coordinate and collaborate with civilian authorities," said Lt. Col. Les Edwards, commander for the 6th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package, a battalion-level organization within JTF-71 (MEB). "Once we get on site, we take our marching orders, our mission, from the civilian incident commander."
CBRNE refers to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive threats that the unit can combat when called upon. The 6th CERFP has a response time of four hours from the first call for support and can sustain operations for up to three days.
"When we need assistance, they're always there," said Miller. "We know them, we work with them all the time, we train with them. The working relationship we have with the Guard is second to none."