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NEWS | Jan. 23, 2017

Exercise prepares special response force for upcoming evaluation

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package, or CERFP, conducted a collective training exercise Jan. 21, 2017, at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, to prepare for an external evaluation to be held later this year. The force is made up of Soldiers and Airmen from units based in Petersburg, West Point, Rocky Mount, Danville, Virginia Beach and Langley Air Force Base, as well as Airmen from the Washington D.C. Air National Guard.

“This collective training exercise is a part of a series of requirements for CERFP,” explained Lt. Col. Christopher S. Dunn, commander of the CERFP. “We have to bring all of the Soldiers and Airmen together in order to practice setting up and executing our missions. Our next steps are to continue refining our internal processes and rehearsing our skills before receiving an external evaluation later this spring.”

The Joint Interagency Training and Education Center proctored the exercise and provided an informal evaluation to help prepare the CERFP for their formal external evaluation in April, and it simulated their ability to respond to a 10 kiloton improvised nuclear device in an urban location. The CERFP’s specific mission tasking was to assist with response to a collapsed subway station in order to rescue injured people in the station, conduct decontamination and provide medical assistance.

“This exercise prepared our Soldiers and Airmen for not only our upcoming evaluation, but for a real world response to an urban disaster,” Dunn said. “I think many of us imagine a football field sized area where we have plenty of room to set-up and do the things we need to without worrying about where equipment and tents will go, but in reality, I think we will be forced into a tight situation, without a lot of room to move around and this venue was perfect to exercise those process and really made us think about how we were going to respond.”

The exercise included role players with theatrical-style makeup to simulate injuries and increase the level of realism and provide additional stress on participants.

The CERFP includes six specialized elements, in addition to the command and control element, the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, that creates a response force capable of providing support to first responders and civil authorities in the event of a disaster. The Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the unit can conduct incident management, communications, urban search and rescue, mass casualty decontamination, technical decontamination, medical triage and treatment and fatality search and recovery.

The CERFP was recommended for validation after being assessed as fully trained on 19 of 23 total major tasks, needing practice on four tasks and having no untrained tasks by an external evaluation held May 15, 2015, at the Virginia Beach Fire and EMS Training Center in Virginia Beach, Va. Read more:

One of the challenges for the organization is the fact that all the units have a primary mission like engineer operations, medical support or chemical decontamination, and they are brought together to form the CERFP and provide it’s specialized capabilities. The CERFP is unique in that it is a task force that includes elements from several different units rather than one specific unit. This task force leverages the strengths and capabilities of these different elements to accomplish the mission.

The units making up Virginia’s CERFP include:

– The command and control element from the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group.
– The mass casualty decontamination element from the Rocky Mount-based 229th Chemical Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group.
– The search and extraction element from West Point-based 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group.
– The medical triage and stabilization element from the 192nd Medical Group, 192nd Fighter Wing Virginia stationed at Langley Air Force Base.
– The Joint Incident Site Communications Capability from the 192nd Mission Support Group, 192nd Fighter Wing Virginia stationed at Langley Air Force Base.
– The fatality search and recovery team from the 113th Flight Services Squadron from the Washington, D.C. National Guard.

If an incident occurs requiring CERFP support, 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, the Joint Force Headquarters – Virginia would coordinate with the receiving state under the terms agreed to in the Emergency Mutual Aid Compact. There are currently 17 CERFP teams available nationwide and three within FEMA Region 3: Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia.

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