Preparing for the main event
By 2nd. Lt. Sarah Meinecke, 116th Air Control Wing
/ Published August 21, 2007
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Tents were raised and tables were laid out in a base hanger during a recent 3-day span.
But there was no party going on.
Instead of a celebration, the 116th Medical Group, along with the 138th Chemical Company, the 4th Civil Support Team and Headquarters Joint Task Force 781st - all components of the Georgia Army National Guard - worked together during an exercise from Aug. 17-18.
The joint exercise, or practice, was held in preparation of September's 7-day external evaluation in Savannah, Ga. that will measure the response capabilities to Chemical, Biological, Nuclear or High-Yield Explosive (CBERNE) occurrences. The evaluation will also cover personnel decontamination, as well as the ability to conduct emergency medical services, and search and extraction.
"It's important to be able to come in and help local people as quick as we can," said Maj. Gen. Scott Hammond, who arrived Sunday morning to observe the exercise. "As a military planner, you have to look at the global war on terror as an away and home game. (Sept. 11, 2001) proved that the bad guys can come here and do bad things to us."
And when the "bad things" happen, the Georgia Air and Army National Guard want to build a relationship where the two sides can work together to provide the fastest response possible. And it is not just the man-made disasters that highlight the need for enhanced response, but also natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes.
And for that wide-reaching possibility of disaster, a number of Guardsmen gathered on Friday, Aug. 17 for a weekend full of training that included setting up medical tents in the right order and making sure the medical equipment was where it needed to be.
"This is our third time (setting up)," said Senior Airman Natalie Hoskins, who was working in the treatment tent on the final day of the exercise. "Of course the first time was hectic because we didn't know what we were doing, but this time it is better."
Hoskins said the entire operation began last March, giving the joint forces six months to perfect the preparation and quick response capabilities. It started with a number of classes and training before it moved to real-world situations such as the exercise that took place.
"There were a lot of boring classes," said Hoskins, laughing.
But all those boring classes were in preparation for next month's evaluation, which will determine whether or not the 116th Medical Group and its Army National Guard counterparts are qualified to be called upon to represent a regional response in the event of a CBERNE.
The evaluation will go over four main elements - command and control, search and extraction, medical and mass decontamination, and the target time to complete the entire set-up is six hours at the fastest and 72 at the most.
"Basically, we are at the crawl and walk phase," said Maj. John Strain as he overlooked the process. "It's not a run test. (In Savannah) it will be crawl, walk, run in a compressed amount of time."
If the evaluation goes well, Georgia, one of five states hoping to pass the evaluation, will join the 12 states currently part of the Enhanced Response Force Package (ERFP).
"My (Army National Guard) counterpart had nothing but accolades (for the exercise)," Gen. Hammond said. "Everyone is working hard and is happy to be here."