ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen of the Oregon National Guard’s CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) took part in a weeklong exercise, Vigilant Guard-Alaska, March 23 – April 3.
Vigilant Guard is a multi-state, multi-agency exercise created to focus on training and inter-operability between civil authorities and the National Guard in the event of a disaster. The large-scale exercise tied-in to Alaska Shield, a series of complex exercises addressing catastrophic planning, response, and recovery over the course of nearly two years that built on a series of four prior statewide Alaska Shield exercises.
“This has been an excellent training opportunity for not only the Oregon National Guard, but also for multiple agencies at various levels,” said Lt. Col. Michael Moffit, commander of the Oregon CERFP.
The overall exercise spanned several locations throughout Alaska. However, Oregon’s CERFP participated in a notional 9.2 earthquake scenario in the city of Anchorage. During the exercise, Oregon Soldiers and Airmen trained alongside the Hawaii National Guard’s CERFP team, learning how to work and communicate together to complete the mission.
The mission of Oregon’s CERFP is to provide immediate response capability to the governor after a natural or man-made disaster and is comprised of five elements staffed by personnel from already established Oregon National Guard units. These joint service Air and Army Guard elements include teams specializing in search and extraction, decontamination, medical treatment, remains recovery, and command and control.
“The Oregon CERFP stands by 24/7/365 to support civilian first responders and incident command for any significant hazard event to human life in Oregon, the Northwest, or in the nation,” said Capt. Mark Timmons, Oregon’s CERFP action officer.
Oregon’s CERFP is one of the nation’s newest validated teams, having completed their required external validation back in May 2012. During Vigilant Guard-Alaska, Oregon became the first CERFP in U.S. history to rapidly deploy all personnel and equipment, including several trucks and trailers, utilizing military aircraft.
“The CERFP’s ability to muster and deploy in short notice is paramount to saving lives, mitigating additional harm to citizens and aiding the incident command’s overall response,” Timmons said.
“Being the first in U.S. history to rapidly deploy, we have been able to create and provide doctrine on how to deploy these types of units to help other CERFP units across the country; that’s huge when you are talking about time for disaster response,” he continued.
Members of the unit said they look forward to participating in more large-scale exercises involving civil authorities in the future to improve their overall experience and knowledge in disaster response.