Pa. National Guard begins planning with partners for emergency-preparedness exercise Vigilant Guard

Joint Force Headquarters, Pennsylvania National Guard
Story by Maj. Angela King-Sweigart

Date: 08.28.2013
Posted: 08.28.2013 15:10
News ID: 112768
Pennsylvania National Guard begins planning with partners for emergency-preparedness exercise Vigilant Guard

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – The Pennsylvania National Guard headquarters, along with Lithuanian armed forces and other civilian agencies, are preparing for the U.S. Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau's Vigilant Guard 2014 exercise Aug. 28-29.

The multi-component training exercise is intended to improve communication and operational relationships between civilian, federal, and military partners in preparation for catastrophic emergencies.

The exercise will include an estimated 2,500 Guard members from several states and territories including West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Florida, as well as 21 civilian agencies like Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Department of Agriculture and the Lithuanian Fire and Rescue, according Lt. Col. Alan Ornoski, Joint strategic plans officer for the Pennsylvania National Guard.

The simulated event will kick off with a severe weather emergency, like a hurricane. Events from the storm would trigger several other events, such as a cyber security incident, or the need to evacuate residents.

“It is a great opportunity to work with our interagency partners at the international, federal, state and local agencies,” said Ornoski. “We want to continue to build relationships while exercising our command-and-control systems to respond to a catastrophic event.”

Members of the Lithuanian armed forces and civilian agencies are also looking forward to observing and participating in the exercise.

The Pennsylvania National Guard has a 20-year relationship with Lithuania in the National Guard’s State Partnership Program.

“Lithuania is fortunate in that we are a relatively safe country,” said Col. Artūras Račkauskas, deputy director of the fire and rescue department, under the ministry of the interior of Lithuania. “But, we still have wildfires, floods, and other events that require mass evacuations. This exercise will enable us to become more knowledgeable on how to manage these large-scale events.”

“We are embedding with the Joint Force Headquarters during the exercise,” added Maj. Vaidotas Šidlauskas, military training and planning officer, Joint Headquarters, Lithuanian Armed Forces. “In Lithuania, the armed forces are called out to assist in civil-military operations. For example, we were called out to help combat forest fires, and an area of our nation is subject to frequent flooding.”

The planning phase of the exercise will continue into next year with the agencies meeting several more times to solidify plans.

This is the first time the Pennsylvania National Guard has hosted the biannual exercise which is held with varying scenarios, in different states.

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