Friday, May 18, 2012

National Guard: Command post helps National Guard respond to possible disasters

By Army National Guard Spc. J.p. Lawrence
New York National Guard

UTICA, N.Y. (5/17/12) - The scenario is as horrific as it is potentially tragic: what if terrorists attacked the United States with chemical weapons?

About 1,000 National Guard Soldiers, Airmen and New York Guard volunteers trained to respond to such a scenario at the Utica National Guard Armory as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency II Homeland Response Force validation training, May 16.

The FEMA II Homeland Response Force - which is a robust, specialized, rapid-response task force made up of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to reinforce first responders in times of disaster - included members of the New Jersey, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands National Guards.

The organization supports civil authorities in response to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) or Hazardous Material incidents that requiring the evacuation, decontamination and medical triage of casualties.

Army Maj. Aron Sacchetti, executive officer of the Command and Control Element of the HRF, helps the unit coordinate with civilians in the response to national disaster.

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Army Spc. Louis Cesario, focuses while training as a liaison officer for the Homeland Response Force Tactical Operations Center in Utica, N.Y. May 16, 2012. Cesario helps the TOC provide important information to the civilian first responders in the event of an emergency situation. (Army National Guard photo by Spc. J.p. Lawrence)(Released)
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“We’re working as the primary command and control unit here to ensure that we are able to recommend to the commander what our current status is here, how long we can continue to operate, and if we need anything,” Sacchetti said.

If a disaster hits the FEMA area of New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico or U.S. Virgin Islands, the HRF command post would be responsible for keeping track of the military units that would respond. This includes hourly reports on the supply, equipment and personnel levels of the military response. That information would go to the civilian in charge of the total efforts of the military and civilian first-responders.

“We provide that information to the civilian first responders who are controlling the overall response to make sure that he’s got the information he needs to coordinate the efforts of the civilian and the military folks to deal with the situation as efficiently as possible,” Sacchetti said. “The goal is to save people’s lives.”
Components of this response have been tested in the world, but the process of combining disaster response with a traveling central command hub is brand new.

“This is all brand new, which helps with the excitement and the enjoyment – the fact that we’re building this program now,” Sacchetti said. “We hope that we never have to use it in real life, and so far, we have not had to.”
Sacchetti said the exercise has already helped them build relationships with civilian first responders, but he hopes to continue building relationships in the future in order to respond to the unthinkable.

“We’re all very proud to be part of this mission,” Sacchetti said. “We realize the seriousness of this and we take our training very seriously.”

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