FORT PICKETT, Va. — Virginia and Washington, D.C., National Guard Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Richmond-based 34th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High Yield Explosives Enhanced Response Force Package, also known as CERFP, conducted a confirmation exercise with the National Guard CBRN Response Enterprise Information Management System Feb. 28, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The system provides a suite of software applications and end-user devices similar to smart phones and tablets which allow personnel to easily share information and help maintain a common operating picture during response operations.
“The system in its current form is a solid foundation with tremendous potential, and based on what we have learned from this practical application we will be able to improve its capabilities and make it more effective as we use the system in the future, “ said Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki, deputy commander of the CERFP.
The 34th CERFP was selected as the pilot for the new system based on the unit’s strong reputation and past duty performance in state and regional exercises, Czaplicki said.
The exercise also provided a collective training opportunity for the CERFP responding to role players with simulated injuries and was the first-ever employment of a dry radiological decontamination process.
“Since the CERFP elements have to balance the demands of their federal mission with their CERFP mission requirements, anytime we are able to get them all together for training is a great opportunity to make sure we are ready to respond if we are needed,” Czaplicki said.
The NG CIMS is primarily a system of record to provide National Guard Civil Support Teams, CERFPs and Homeland Response Forces with a standardized tactical-level common operating picture and situational understanding tool for managing mission operations and information. In addition to being able to share information between the different elements of the CERFP, the systems also allows for information sharing between NG CRE forces and externally with other Department of Defense and civilian response partners.
“The National Guard Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Information Management System is a game changer as a common operating picture for the Title 32 portion of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Response Enterprise,” said Scott A. White, HRF/CERFP branch chief, National Guard Bureau’s Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction Division. “The platform for the first time allows for a common framework of hardware and software for the 57 CSTs, 17 CERFPs, and 10 HRFs. The Title 10 side of the CRE does not have this same level of capability and is looking at adopting NG CIMS as a capability to meet their needs as well.”
After completing classroom and hands on practical exercises with a selected group of Soldiers and Airmen, the full-scale exercise was an opportunity for integration of each of the end-user devices with simulated casualties and rescue missions.
“This will fundamentally change how we currently operate,” explained Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki, deputy commander of the 34th CERFP. “This coverts all of our tactical processes from being tracked on dry erase boards to a completely digital system. It will be a challenging, but much needed change to propel the CRE [CBRN Response Enterprise] into a more connected future with our civilian counterparts.”
The NG CIMS provides the 34th CERFP with the ability to integrate position location information of personnel and CBRN sensor systems operating in the areas surrounding a disaster zone to provide real-time detection of potential CBRN threats to Soldiers and Airmen performing rescues.
The NG CIMS predecessor, the CST Information Management System, has been used multiple times to assist with National Guard Civil Support operations during domestic emergencies. The system was used during the marathon bombing response in Boston, Massachusetts, mud slide in Oso, Washington, the recent Papal Visit to the National Capital Region and the recent hurricanes affecting the southeastern United States.
NG CIMS issuance was originally included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 16, when the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives directed the Secretary of Defense to expand the CIMS to the CERFP and HRF programs.
The CERFP is capable of providing support to first responders and civil authorities after a chemical, biological or nuclear incident. The team includes both Army and Air National Guard units from Petersburg, West Point, Rocky Mount and Langley Air Force Base, as well as Airmen from the Washington, D.C. National Guard. The team is capable of conducting tasks including consequence management, incident site communications, urban search and rescue, mass causality decontamination, technical decontamination, medical triage and stabilization and human remains recovery.
The CERFP is unique in that it is a task force that includes elements from multiple different units rather than one specific unit:
- Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Richmond-based Joint Force Headquarters – Virginia provide command and control and incident management.
- Soldiers assigned to the Rocky Mount-based 229th Chemical Company serve as a mass casualty decontamination element.
- Soldiers from the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company operate as the search and extraction element.
- Airmen assigned to the 192nd Medical Group stationed at Langley Air Force Base provide the mass casualty medical triage and treatment element.
- Airmen assigned to the 192nd Communications Flight at Langley Air Force Based provide communications capability using the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability, or JISCC.
- The Airmen assigned to the Washington, D.C. National Guard’s 113th Force Support Squadron operate as a fatality search and recovery team.
If an incident requiring CERFP support occurs, Soldiers and Airmen are alerted through the Virginia Guard Joint Operations Center and mobilized on state active duty. If the incident is located within Virginia they would proceed to the incident site and fall under the control of the incident commander. If the incident is located outside of Virginia, Joint Force Headquarters – Virginia would coordinate with the receiving state under the terms agreed to in the Emergency Mutual Aid Compact.
Virginia’s CERFP was authorized in June 2006. There are currently 27 CERFP teams available nationwide with three in FEMA Region 3 in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia.