News: 4th MEB leadership observes Operation Dauntless Courage
Story by Sgt. Kelly Malone
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – Deputy commander of support Col. Frank Muth, 1st Infantry Division, visited “Dauntless” soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters and 94th Signal Companies, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, during their weeklong exercise focusing on the task force’s simulated response to a catastrophic Midwest nuclear detonation in order to strengthen their homeland emergency response skills Nov. 20.
On Oct. 1 of this year, soldiers with 4th MEB assumed responsibility for Task Force-Operations for the Joint Task Force-Civil Support Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Force mission, commanded by existing brigade commander Col. James F. Reckard III.
During an in-depth operational order brief, Reckard described for Muth the CBRN Response Enterprise, which is the Department of Defense tiered-response framework on how DOD would support civil authorities at the local, state, tribal and federal levels.
“If you look at the CBRN Response Enterprise, it starts with the [National Guard] response. Every state has one or two [civil support teams], which is a 26-man team with specially trained CBRN response elements that is first to act,” said Reckard.
As you graduate the response effort, there are battalion-level responses for each state they call [CBRN Enhanced Response Force Package] teams – National Guard battalions set up to do basic triage, urban search and rescue and decontamination. Then geographically, the National Guard has a higher headquarters they call a HRF, or hazardous response force, which is a brigade-level task force, Reckard said.
“So only after all those forces have worked in an area should they shift to the federal response activating JTF-CS and task force-[operations], task force-[medical], task force-[logistics] or task force-aviation,” said Reckard.
When responding to a national emergency, there is no way to know how long soldiers will be on DCRF or what they may see.
The troops’ physical needs are taken care of with food, shelter and protective equipment. Taking care of the soldiers’ emotional and mental well-being is another issue.
Chaplains are part of the responding force to fill this inevitable need.
“Our chaplains are going to need to be with their soldiers during a disaster of this nature. It won’t just be about exposure to radiation that’s going to drive this ship. It’s the psychological exposure to the carnage,” said Maj. Nathan McLean, brigade chaplain, HHC, 4th MEB, 1st Infantry Division. “It is imperative to prepare our soldiers for what they will undoubtedly encounter.”
In closing his visit, Muth admitted sitting through the brief enlightened his knowledge of the 4th MEB DCRF and TF-OPS mission.
“This [mission] is very complex,” Muth said.
Muth explained how we routinely train for wide-area security and combined-arms maneuver, and all soldiers have grown up in that environment. The information is doctrinally driven. Muth further described how the Army has a doctrine foundation and all of the military jobs come together in organizations and execute a mission everyone is trained for.
“This is not something we have trained for nor is it doctrine; you’re writing a lot of this as it’s occurring, and every exercise I am sure you come away saying things like, ‘that didn’t happen last time’ or ‘we never thought about this and how do we react to it,’” Muth said.
Muth rhetorically asked how to effectively react to a national security threat like the huge nuclear detonation without an asset like the [4th] Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
“Clearly you have learned a lot, and I’ll just tell you that this mission is absolutely imperative,” Muth said.
On day four of the exercise, Maj. Gen. Leslie C. Smith, commanding general, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, visited 4th MEB’s tactical operation center, for an operational overview.
At the conclusion of the brief, Smith asked the group about how a real-life scenario would mentally impact soldiers.
Chicago and the surrounding areas were used as the simulation zone for this training exercise.
“Who’s from Chicago, or close by?” asked Smith. “How would you handle this situation?”
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Leahy, current operations supervisor, HHC, 4th MEB, 1st Infantry Division, whose hometown is Rockford, Ill., responded to Smith.
Leahy said that all those family members and friends back home would be devastated if this type of scenario were to happen, and it would be difficult to focus on the mission.
The DCRF response could happen at any time and anywhere in the country, so to remain on point, the 4th MEB continues to train.
The unit will head to Georgia for a two-week training exercise to continue enhancing their skills should they be called to support civil authorities in a homeland emergency.