News: Texas Guard unit passes key readiness inspection
Story by Staff Sgt. Melissa Bright
AUSTIN, Texas— American exposure to the possibilities of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear events has increased exponentially as home-grown terrorist plots continue to come to light. This month, a Texas National Guard unit charged with assisting civil authorities during events such as these achieved an important milestone toward becoming a certified asset to first responders by scoring 94 percent on a demanding, two-day initial evaluation. The inspection, conducted by the National Guard Bureau Standardization, Evaluation and Assistance Team, was intended to gauge their readiness to respond and sustain operations when on the scene.
The unit, 6th CBRN Enhanced Force Package, or CERFP, is a component of Joint Task Force-71, headquartered in Austin, Texas. It consists of approximately 186 soldiers and airmen. Each CERFP has a command and control section, a decontamination element, a medical element, a casualty search and extraction element.
"I am very proud of Lt. Col. Daniel Quick and his team for the outstanding efforts on their first SEAT inspection and the third one in the National Guard,” said Col. William Hall, Joint Task Force 71 commander. “Receiving a 94 percent, out of 100 percent, is phenomenal and highlights the level of commitment by the soldiers and Airmen of the 6th CERFP.”
Later this year, Hall will oversee the re-designation of the 6th CERFP as the 6th CBRN Task Force as part of the Texas-hosted effort to establish the Homeland Response Force for FEMA Region 6. The change will occur in conjunction with the certification of the HRF in October.
Once this certification process is complete, the FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force will be able to integrate multiple CERFPs and civil support teams for a coordinated, robust response to any emergency.
The inspection is required every 18 months for all state CERFPs to ensure they are in compliance with federal, state, and military regulations in four main areas: operational readiness of the medical team, budgetary and fiduciary responsibility, operations oversight and logistics.
The SEAT representatives use the initial inspection as an opportunity to identify deficiencies and work with the unit to develop processes that will allow improvement in overall unit readiness.
It is noteworthy that the medical component to the 6th CERFP, the Air National Guard 149th Small Portable Expeditionary Aeromedical Rapid Response team, achieved a 100 percent on their portion of inspection “due primarily to the dedication, hard work and team effort put into ensuring their compliance,” said Capt. Wayne Hill, 149th SPEARR commander.
“I was impressed with the level of cooperation and the general air of assistance the SEAT representatives provided as soon as they arrived,” said Sgt. First Class Anthony Buck, operations manager for the 6th CERFP. “There was definitely a feeling of collaboration and cooperation.”
“Key to the inspection was the collective goal of unit readiness and improvement,” said Quick, commander of the 6th CERFP. We were in a good position pick up and continue best practices seen in other units.
As with all inspections there is a greater purpose than just making sure the paperwork is in order. The SEAT inspections are also designed to assist states tasked with the CERFP mission to develop programs to establish and maintain capabilities and compliance.
This round of assessments was not the ultimate test for their systems-in-place; instead it was part of an initial inspection program aimed primarily at including compliance-oriented practice evaluations while establishing systems and programs within the CERFPs to monitor the progress of the processes.
Essentially last weeks’ inspection is a guide to preliminary compliance, to “show what right looks like with a secondary benefit of orienting the Joint Forces Headquarters to the CERFP SEAT program mission and intent. Most importantly, however, it establishes a baseline for compliance.
“I stated early on in my command tenure that units in JTF-71 should be the most inspected and evaluated in the Texas Military Forces” said Hall. “Our mission and responsibility demands nothing less.”