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Vigilant Guard: CERFP Mass Casualty Exercise in Montana

CERFP servicemembers decontaminate simulated patients during Exercise Vigilant Guard, March 6, 2018, at Great Falls, Montana. Credit: Tyler Meister

The Oregon National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) recently teamed up with the Montana National Guard to practice and enhance their skills during exercise Vigilant Guard 18 in Great Falls, Montana, March 3-9, 2018.

The exercise required Oregon and Montana National Guardsmen to respond to a simulated earthquake and mass flooding which led to contamination.

Vigilant Guard is a United States Northern Command and National Guard Bureau sponsored exercise program. Exercises are held in a different state each year. These exercises help National Guard personnel refine their response for domestic operations and build a closer relationship with community and state disaster response departments.

“We do not get a lot of opportunities to train in cold climates like this, so this opportunity has allowed our team to develop and broaden their skill sets,” said Oregon Army National Guard Sgt. Joseph Johnson, ambulatory decontamination team leader with Oregon’s CERFP.

The Oregon CERFP team is made up of both Army and Air National Guardsmen, from the Army Guard’s 3670th Component Repair Company and Air Guard’s 142nd Medical Group, 142nd Fighter Wing, who specialize in disaster response. Combined, the CERFP’s capabilities include decontamination, search and extraction, mass casualty triage, medical response and overall command and control.

In December 2017 the Oregon Army National Guard’s 821st Troop Command Battalion took over the entire mission of CERFP except for the medical response portion.

“Some of our new personnel were not fully trained yet, so this exercise has been a fantastic opportunity to get our new guys trained and up to the level they need to be,” said Lt. Col. Cary Gilman, battalion commander of 821st Troop Command. “Our CERFP team’s training is well ahead of where we should be and I am highly motivated that we are going to be one of the best teams in the nation soon.”

Oregon brought a total of 187 personnel to the exercise and was able to setup multiple response operation areas in different regions of Montana. Oregon Army National Guard Capt. Tony Bagnall, the exercise battle captain for the tactical operations center, said the integration and facilitation with the Montana National Guardsmen was practically seamless.

“As the exercise played out, our ability to communicate and handle any emergency recovery situations greatly improved,” said Bagnall.

Many Montana Guardsmen were mixed in with the Oregon CERFP and tackled the challenges of the exercise together.

Source: Adapted from reporting by Sgt. Tyler Meister. Edited for context and format by CBRNE Central.

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