News: 4th MEB trains for disaster on the homefront
Story by Staff Sgt. Kelly Carlton
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - A group of 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Soldiers returned to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in late July after conducting the annual Vibrant Response exercise at various training areas in Indiana.
The exercise’s scenario centered around a mock nuclear detonation in a large American city that overwhelmed local and regional capabilities. Its purpose was to test the 4th MEB’s lead as task force operations for the Joint Task Force-Civil Support’s Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Force, or DCRF. The “Dauntless” brigade Soldiers were alerted, mobilized and deployed following the mock explosion.
The 4th MEB's DCRF mission, which continues through May, is to save lives and mitigate human suffering in a homeland chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear environment in support of the local, state and federal agencies who would respond in an actual disaster.
During Vibrant Response, Task Force Operations, also known as Task Force Dauntless, brought more than 1,200 troops, firefighters, Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel and police from various states who contributed their own specialties.
After traveling more than 400 miles in a convoy of military vehicles, Task Force Dauntless Soldiers hit the ground running. They established their operations center and went to work analyzing information and planning missions, which included establishing and running mass decontamination sites, wellness checks and search and rescue efforts.
As Task Force Dauntless served as the operations headquarters for JTF-CS, subordinate units were busy executing the missions at nearby Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, an area that looked like a disaster movie set to provide the most realistic training possible. Flooded homes, mock media, civilian actors, homemade signs asking for help, crashed vehicles and scattered debris all added to the realism of the exercise.
Vibrant Response was a multi-layered effort with multiple civil and defense agencies coming together for the exercise in order to hone their skills, according to information from the Joint Task Force-Civil Support.
“It was great to see Air Force and Army engineers working together,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Kevin S. Ochs, deputy engineering flight commander, 823 Red Horse Squadron. “Even though we are both engineering units, we bring unique capabilities to enable the DCRF mission and allow us to understand each other’s capabilities, processes and culture. This in not only important for the DCRF mission, but was an incredibly valuable experience for future joint missions happening around the world.”
Although Task Force Operations would assist civil authorities in a variety of urgent situations, the group’s expertise in the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear realm, such as decontamination of residents and CBRN analyses, was one of the more immediate assets the unit provided in a scenario such as Vibrant Response.
“Decontamination is the process of removing mass quantities of contamination to help mitigate suffering,” said Staff Sgt. Ghad Grant, chemical operation specialist assigned to 4th MEB as part of Task Force Operations. “The key to successful mass decontamination is to use the fastest approach that will cause the least harm and do the most good for the majority of the people.”
For Grant, a native of New York, the exercise further emphasized something he knew all too well.
“Just because the war’s over doesn’t mean we don’t have enemies out there,” Grant said.
During the exercise, Soldiers executed tasks they otherwise might not be asked to complete at their home stations.
“As a military police officer, my primary function at Fort Leonard Wood is to patrol as law enforcement and provide a secure environment at the installation’s entrance gates,” Sgt. Samantha Crisman, 4th MEB, said. “During Vibrant Response, or on any DCRF mission, my duties are very different as I never carry my weapon and primarily monitor task force operations to ensure all JTF-CS and civilian laws are being adhered to.”
Master Sgt. Wesley Davis, 4th MEB and Task Force Operations intelligence noncommissioned officer in charge, said the Vibrant Response exercise was unique for him as he applied the same thought processes normally used in intelligence, but in a non-intelligence fashion, such as analyzing weather, terrain and trying to figure out where help might be needed next.
Davis said one of the biggest benefits of the exercise and mission was the staff synchronization, where different sections worked together with their unique skill sets and knowledge toward a common goal.
As the Soldiers returned home, the Task Force Dauntless safety officer touted the mission from his perspective.
“TF Ops had no accidents and no serious injuries during the exercise,” Greg Wolf, 4th MEB safety officer, said. “More than 500 pieces of military equipment and 1,000 Soldiers were deployed from Fort Stewart to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Fort Drum to Fort Hood to conduct Vibrant Response and we all did it with safety at the forefront.”
Col. Andy Munera, Task Force Operations and 4th MEB commander, made the rounds and congratulated troops on a job well done at the conclusion of the exercise. His words of advice to his DCRF units encouraged them to master four things to sustain their success.
“Master the fundamentals, be team players, always do things with discipline and character and be technically proficient,” he said.