News: JECC integrates with Joint Task Force-Civil Support during Vibrant Response 13
Story by Whitney Katz
NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. – The Joint Enabling Capabilities Command (JECC) gained additional experience in the execution of disaster response missions to counter Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) attacks while participating in the recent U.S. Northern Command exercise, Vibrant Response 13-2 (VR 13-2).
A total of 15 members from across the JECC’s three subordinate joint commands – the Joint Planning Support Element (JPSE), the Joint Public Affairs Support Element (JPASE) and the Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE) – integrated with various local, state and federal agencies during VR 13-2 from July 30 – August 17 at Camp Atterbury and the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Ind.
VR 13-2 is an annual exercise which brings together non-governmental organizations with major units of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) CBRN response enterprise following a catastrophic incident. Over 5,700 military personnel from various units across the U.S. participated in VR 13-2, including Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS), which requested joint planning and public affairs support from JPSE and JPASE, respectively, to fill capability gaps during the exercise.
JTF-CS, a subordinate command of USNORTHCOM, functions as an operational-level standing joint task force headquarters for CBRN response operations. During VR 13-2, JTF-CS was responsible for the oversight of responding federal military units while integrating with other state, local, federal and non-governmental agencies to achieve unity of effort. The JPSE and JPASE members assumed critical positions on the JTF-CS headquarters staff to provide joint expertise and skill sets which were needed to successfully command and control operations during the exercise.
The 10 JPSE members who participated in VR 13-2 were integral in the development of numerous Operations Orders which tasked DOD tactical units in the Defense CBRN Response Force (DCRF) with various mission sets like search and rescue, medical transport, and mortuary affairs. The DCRF, which is comprised of over 5,000 personnel from all Services, is a task force designed to assist civilian first responders in saving lives and facilitating operations following catastrophic CBRN events.
“We wrote numerous Fragmentary Orders and multiple Warning Orders that translated Department of State and Federal Emergency Management Agency mission assignment tasking orders to DOD orders for the assigned DCRF units on the ground,” explained U.S. Navy Cmdr. Ron Toland, the exercise lead for VR 13-2. “After participating in Vibrant Response, the JPSE planners have a better understanding of the JTF-CS mission, the DCRF capabilities and the complexity of setting up a command post in a rapid fashion.”
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Indovina, the sole JPASE member who participated in VR 13-2, served as JTF-CS’ public affairs plans lead and assisted the deputy director of public affairs officer in managing day-to-day operations of the Public Affairs Center. In addition to providing the command group with communication synchronization guidance and developing communications plans, Indovina also assisted in the coordination of real-world national coverage of VR 13-2 including FOX News (which can be viewed here).
One of JPASE’s key takeaways from VR 13-2 was the significance of understanding the roles and responsibilities of the various participants during a CBRN operation; especially since JPASE could likely be tasked to keep the public informed, similar to what Indovina did during this exercise.
“It is important for the public to understand that the federal, state and local authorities along with DOD are working hand-in-hand,” said Indovina. “It was a key message to ensure that our publics understand that if an incident like this happened, our forces are trained and ready to support the American people and that we have practiced the coordination between DOD and other agencies.”
JCSE, on the other hand, was integrated with a tactical unit during VR 13-2; providing communications support to the 415th CBRN Brigade in its role as the Task Force Operations Headquarters. Four members of JCSE’s 4th Joint Communications Squadron (4JCS) employed an Early Entry Package (EEP), which offered unclassified network access, commercial Internet, phone and video teleconferencing capabilities, to supplement the communications services provided by the 415th CBRN Brigade, itself. The EEP is one of JCSE’s most requested communications systems due to its flexibility in providing multiple services for up to 40 users.
Although this was the first time this team of communicators supported a CBRN operation; the 4JCS team members were confident in their abilities to provide the necessary communication services despite a unique mission set.
“We can provide the same services for CBRN missions that we could for any other mission type,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Johnathan Guzman, a 4JCS member who participated in VR 13-2. “The customer may modify their requests based on their mission, but we are flexible and can tailor our support to meet the fluctuating requirements.”
For each of the JECC’s subordinate joint commands, VR 13-2 provided an opportunity to better understand both their individual roles and those of participating organizations across local, state, federal and DOD agencies. The extensive support needed to conduct a successful CBRN operation was evident throughout the duration of VR 13-2 as numerous organizations joined together to achieve one common objective – ensuring the safety and protection of American citizens during a large scale disaster.