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NEWS | Feb. 29, 2016

Va. Guard CERFP works side-by-side with agency partners at Sovereign Guardian 2016

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

More than 170 Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package, or CERFP, trained during Sovereign Guardian 2016 with members of the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department Feb. 24, 2016, at the Washington DC Fire & EMS Training Academy in Washington, D.C.

“Developing relationships is the key to success in any emergency,” said Lt. Col. Colin S. Noyes, commander of the Virginia CERFP. “Sovereign Guardian 2016 was really important for us to work side-by-side with D. C. emergency agencies as well as the West Virginia National Guard CERFP and Pennsylvania National Guard Homeland Response Force. It also gave us the training in wide area search utilizing RFK stadium and working in a new venue at the D.C.”

The Washington D.C. National Guard hosted Sovereign Guardian 2016, and the exercise was intended to strengthen interagency partnerships between National Capital Region local, state and federal agencies to improve interoperability during response to all-hazard emergencies. National Guard units from Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania are taking part in the training along with the Metropolitan PoliceDepartment, DCFEMS and the Civil Air Patrol’s National Capital Wing.

“The biggest benefit that we received from our participation in Sovereign Guardian was the interconnection between the National Guard Civil Support response and the National Incident Management System,” explained Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki, operations officer for the CERFP. He explained that during the exercise, the CERFP personnel actively work with members of the local incident command as well as coordinated between the D.C. National Guard’s Joint Operations Center and the FEMA Region III Homeland Response Force.

The Virginia Guard’s CERFP includes six specialized elements under the command of the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion creating 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, urban search and rescue, mass casualty decontamination, technical decontamination, medical triage and treatment, fatality search and recovery and communications support. 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.

During the exercise, CERFP personnel conducted more than 25 technical search and extractions, and they also handled more than 7,000 simulated casualties over a two-day period.

“In the past, the CERFP has only worked for one or the other, not both,” Czaplicki said. “Soldiers and Airmen have always practiced and read on how a CERFP would respond in a heavy urban environment, but we’ve never actually done it. This exercise pushed all of our troops to the limit by forcing leaders outside their comfort zones. We needed to be especially creative in solving space issues and hyper focused during convoy movements conducted at rush hour in in Washington, D. C. traffic.”

The exercise also immersed the Soldiers and Airmen where they had to both work and live in an emergency response immersive environment.

“Our troops camped out on a drill floor, ate MREs, woke up early and went to bed late,” Czaplicki said. “It was near to reality as they could make it.”

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:

View photos from the training on the 276th Engineer Battalion Facebook page:

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