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NEWS | Jan. 31, 2024

34th CERFP conducts CTE at Fort Barfoot

By Spc. Ericka Gillespie | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Richmond-based 34th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package, or CERFP, conducted a collective training event Jan. 5-7, 2024, at Fort Barfoot, Virginia, to instruct their newest Soldiers and Airmen on the basics of incident management and emergency response. During the three-day event, the CERFP elements reacted to multiple mock scenarios, which included search and extraction, decontamination, medical support and fatality management. This allowed the teams to put their training into action while being up against challenging weather conditions as a winter storm moved through the area. “As CERFP, we are doing specific element training today,” said Capt. Allison Smith, the 34th CERFP’s operations officer. “There are six elements and today, five out of the six elements that are here will each individually work on their Training and Evaluation Outlines. When each individual element is prepared, this allows all the elements to come together and work together as a team.” The 34th CERFP was authorized in June 2006 and validated for the fifth time in April 2017. It is a unique task force made up of Virginia and District of Columbia Guardsmen and includes elements from multiple units.
  The Command and Control Element from the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion Headquarters The Mass Casualty Decontamination Element from the Rocky Mount-based 229th Chemical Company The Search and Extraction Element from multiple 329th Regional Support Group engineer units across the state The Medical Element from the Joint Base Langley-Eustis-based 192nd Medical Group, 192nd Wing, Virginia Air National Guard The Communications Element from the Joint Base Langley-Eustis-based 192nd Support Squadron, 192nd Wing, Virginia Air National Guard The Fatality Search and Recovery team from the Joint Base Andrews, Md.-based 113th Flight Services Squadron, D.C. National Guard “We have a representative from each element come together here at command and control to learn the computer system that we all use as a whole,” said Smith. “This allows the process of all the elements to work smoothly together even on the technical side.” The Joint Incident Site Communications Capability systems provide an array of communications options to a variety of users, including wireless and wired internet connectivity, uplink to satellites, telephone service, and many more communications capabilities, as well as radio connections to multiple frequencies between local, state and federal agencies. “In the midst of a natural disaster with no other services available, we provide the CERFP external reach back capabilities from our JISCC team to be able to connect with other JISCC systems,” said Senior Airman Max Krusinski.   “On drill weekends, we set up the JISCC to run updates, test the network, and make sure everything is operational. This allows us to be prepared to respond accordingly for when we integrate with the CERFP or get called upon for hurricane response, or other natural disasters,” said 2nd Lt. Wesley Michaux. Soldiers and airmen continued training and rotated stations during Search and Extraction training. “Today in Search and Extraction, we’re going over donning of the Hazmat suit, the Patient Packaging Station, Shoring Review, Technical Rope Rescuing Missions, and lastly a general overview of how the CERFP and S&E component work together to support FEMA and other nationwide resources,” said 1st Lt. Patrick McWilliams with the West Point-based 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion. Search and Extraction training equips Soldiers and Airmen with the necessary skills to conduct rescue operations. These operations may include rope rescue, extraction in a confined space, breaking and breaching, lifting and hauling, shoring, structural collapse search, providing life-saving medical stabilization, as well as removal and disposal of hazardous waste or materials. “I hope to be able to learn and gain the necessary skills from CTE Search and Extraction training today, to be able to be more prepared mentally and ready physically to help people,” said Spc. Victoria Shaw.   If an incident requiring CERFP support occurs, Soldiers and Airmen are alerted through the Virginia National Guard’s Joint Operations Center and mobilized on state active duty. If the incident is located within Virginia, they would then 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 coordinates with the receiving state under the terms agreed to in the Emergency Mutual Aid Compact.   The CERFP is designed to deploy within six hours of notification using a phased deployment. They have the capability to integrate with or augment first responder teams, or operate independently. “From the moment we get a call, CERFP has six hours to respond,” said Smith. “We train hard in hopes we can meet that six-hour demand in a real-world response.”   

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