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NEWS | July 1, 2024

Virginia’s search and extraction team proves capabilities during evaluation

By Staff Reports | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

More than 200 Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen conducted multiple mass casualty response drills during a collective training exercise May 20 - 24, 2024, at Fort Barfoot, Virginia. 

The Soldiers and Airmen are assigned to the Richmond-based 34th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosives Enhanced Response Force Package, which provided search and extraction, decontamination, medical support and fatality management during the mock CBRNE response exercises. 

During the CTE, the CERFP’s search and extraction team underwent a Mission Confirmation Assessment, and were assessed as “Trained” on the team’s seven critical tasks associated with their mission, joining the rest of the CERFP’s elements, according to Maj. Andrew J. Czaplicki, commander of the 34th CERFP. 

“Our task force is validated every three years, but due to unexpected weather last year, our search and extraction element did not finish their portion of the evaluation.” 

Over the five-day exercise, service members worked through a variety of scenarios stressing their knowledge and skills in a simulated disaster environment. Working 16-hour days in oppressive heat, the team responded to notional improvised nuclear explosions impacting notional cities near Virginia. 

 The West Virginia-based Army Interagency Training and Education Center, the National Guard Bureau, and Army North observed and graded the exercise, and offered guidance and recommendations along the way. 

The exercise culminated with a 12-hour graded evaluation based on the task force’s response to a simulated 10-kiloton nuclear detonation. The task force was required to occupy and establish a 5,000 square foot mass casualty decontamination site, locate and rescue simulated survivors, decontaminate notional radioactive and environmental hazards and provide medical triage and stabilization. The task force is supported by a small command post and communications team.

“Our staff designed and execute an aggressive exercise designed to train and qualify our team,” Czaplicki said. “I couldn’t be more proud of how the entire task force came together around our [Search and Extraction] element, everyone did a phenomenal job.”

The National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Enterprise, or CRE, encompasses all National Guard weapons of mass destruction and CBRN response efforts, including smaller-sized Civil Support Teams, 16 other CERFPs, and 10 larger-sized Homeland Response Forces stationed at strategic locations across the nation. NG CRE assets are distributed to each of the ten Federal Emergency Management Agency Regions to provide unique capabilities at a moment’s notice when requested by civilian authorities. Each package can deploy to incidents, conduct command and control, and work alongside first responders in casualty assistance, search and extraction, mass casualty decontamination, medical triage and stabilization, incident site communications, and fatality management.

Each Soldier and Airman has unique individual training requirements ranging from a few hours to multiple weeks, Czaplicki said.

“This is a very real mission for us,” said Czaplicki. “It wasn’t long ago that this task force was activated in response to the global pandemic. Our team is home to some of the few service members who have actually performed many of these [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear] tasks in a real-life environment.”

The CERFP is capable of providing support to first responders and civilian authorities after a chemical, biological or nuclear incident. The team includes both Army and Air National Guard units from Richmond, 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. 

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 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 34th 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.

Read more about the 34th CERFP at





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