By Army Sgt. Brad Staggs and Army Spc. David Bonnell
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 20, 2009 - Ohio National Guard members spent a week at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center here to test their ability to respond to a chemical attack. Ohio's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package – one of more than a dozen such force packages around the country that the Guard calls "CERFPs" for short – comprises command and control, search and extraction, decontamination and medical teams staffed by members of Guard units.
During the exercise here, simulated victims of a chemical attack were "traumatized" as they were transported to one area. The soldiers and airmen who were helping them were dressed in yellow chemical protection suits and trying to calm the survivors.
"Muscatatuck is an absolutely perfect setting for what we do," said Army Lt. Col. Scott Smith, the Ohio CERFP commander. "Our men and women can pull a victim from the rubble and have to bring them straight to [decontamination] without having to pause to reset the exercise."
The CERFP is made up of chemical and engineering soldiers and Air Force medics pulled together from the Ohio Army and Air National Guard. In all, more than 600 personnel were brought to Muscatatuck to train.
The task for the CERFP was to set up a decontamination station in less than 90 minutes. Search and rescue teams could then bring victims to the decontamination station to save their lives. The team completed its task with 22 minutes to spare.
Army Capt. Marshall Jackson, Ohio state public affairs officer, said U.S. Army North validated the CERFP and was impressed with its performance. The soldiers and airmen who participated in the exercise were impressed as well.
"There is really realistic stuff here," Army Pvt. Michael Cooper said. "Especially on the rubble piles. I've never seen so many victims brought to us at one time. ... It's stuff you would see in real life."
Real people were placed inside vehicles and under piles of debris to create a realistic training situation for the soldiers and airmen unlike any they had experienced before.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Kristen Bandey said working in the training environment made the trip from Ohio worth the drive. "It's a lot of hard work, but in the end, it's really rewarding."
The Ohio CERFP will return to Muscatatuck in November, when Army North will conduct a homeland security exercise.
(Army Sgt. Brad Staggs and Army Spc. David Bonnell serve in the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center public)