News: Vigilant Guard Force 2012
Story by Sgt. Denise Durbin-Carlton
124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., Aug. 30, 2012 – Fighting through heavy rains from Hurricane Isaac, soldiers and airmen from the North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama Army and Air Guards gathered at Fort Bragg for Vigilant Guard 2012, hosted this year by the North Carolina National Guard.
This exercise, incorporating military-civilian organizations and operations, is important because it enhances the preparedness of the National Guard in performing state roles and responsibilities associated with homeland defense and Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) missions. An estimated 2,000 service members participated, with several local, state, regional, and federal agencies taking part.
“What makes this exercise unique is that the additional Guard units involved are from other states,” said Col. Michael L. Scholes Sr., who commands the Marietta, Ga., 78th Homeland Response Force (HRF). “North Carolina’s National Guard invited us to participate in this year’s exercise, enabling us [Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee] to work together as a team for the Southeastern region.”
The HRF’s primary mission, he added is command and control of the units participating in the exercise. This, too, is its mission when called upon to assist civil authorities during the real thing.
Vigilant Guard participation is vital to all of the states involved, according to Alabama Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Perry Smith. As a national exercise, it allows each one to take the necessary steps to ensure a more secure domestic posture within their own borders through intense, continuous training, he said. The Guard is the lead military organization for homeland defense, “because what our Soldiers and Airmen bring to the table through their military training and their civilian expertise – be it law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical response or civil engineering – make us the right answer to the problems our states and communities face in a time of crisis.”
As an annual exercise, Vigilant Guard is sponsored by U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), in coordination with National Guard Bureau (NGB), as a means of promoting efficiency between National Guard leaders and senior civilian leaders at the local, state, regional and federal level in the event a homeland emergency occurs.
“Since 2001, we have redefined the role of the National Guard, especially with our participation – nation wide – in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and later during Operation New Dawn during the draw down of forces from Iraq,” added Ezzell. “Our role as an organization changed again in 2011 when we redefined the relationship of the National Guard in the total force structure – through the elevation by the director for the National Guard Bureau – to become a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
Vigilant Guard allows military and civilian first responders – acting together upon a variety of emergency scenarios designed to represent both natural and man-made crisis – to strengthen their working relationships across the board at the local, state and federal levels. In this way, said Smith, there is constant evaluation of, and improvement in, communication, logistic, medical, and special technical and operational response capabilities coordination.
“The opportunity Vigilant Guard provides us [Alabama] to work with the other states and first responders throughout FEMA Region IV is immeasurable,” Smith said. “As we interact, our Soldiers, Airmen, planners and commanders – along with our civilian partners – see what we each do, how we do it and how we can exchange ideas that better serve the end state…getting relief to the civilian population drastically affected by that act of nature or man that has displaced the normalcy of their lives.”
Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen from across the country put every ounce of energy they had into treating the scenarios used for this year’s Vigilant Guard as the real thing. Each event included everything from an explosion outside a local stadium, the dropping of a highway over pass on a school bus and neighborhood, to the disruption of power and communications and release of airborne contaminates, all caused by a domestic terrorist group.
Cries for help, and the screams of pain from civilian role players provided realistic training to the exercise. “I mean, how else would you, would any of us, play it,” said Staff Sgt. Tony Pasley, a medic with the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Medical Group, 123rd Airlift Wing.
During this year’s training, Pasley worked along side combat medics from the Georgia Army Guard’s 248th Medical Company. His job…perform first line triage on the injured coming out of Joint Task Force 781’s decontamination line and decide where they should go for further care by medics from the Georgia Air Guard’s 165th and 116th medical groups, and New Hampshire Air Guard’s 157th Medical Group.
“The role players, especially, have taken their job of expressing the emotions and actions of actual victims to heart,” he said, while watching 248th medics move the latest patient to a nearby treatment tent.
Alabama’s 46th and Tennessee’s 45th Civil Support Teams conducted survey operations among the buildings that occupy the urban operations training site to identify possible contaminants – or possible explosive devices. Engineers with Alabama’s 690th and Georgia’s 877th Engineer Company, during their prospective shifts, provided search and extraction.
“As a citizen-soldier, I find this exercise to be extremely beneficial, especially for those working in emergency response positions, because it allows them, it allows us, to see things from both sides — as a civilian and as a soldier or airman out there helping bring relief and security to a devastated community,” said Staff Sgt. William Vestal of Rockingham, N.C., 881st Engineer Support Company. In times of crisis, he and fellow Guardsmen are called upon as North Carolina National Guard’s Quick Reaction Force to respond to those first calls by civil authority to assist with security operations. “The alliances built here between the Guard and civil authority, create a stronger support element for the Southeastern region.
Date Posted:09.01.2012 15:52
Location:FAYETTEVILLE, NC, US
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