Va. Guard leaders join tabletop exercise focused on Washington, D.C. response operations

AmbitiousGuardian

Several senior Virginia National Guard officers as well as members of the Joint Force Headquarters-Virginia Staff attend a two-day exercise at the Washington Navy Yard’s Admiral Gooding Center Feb. 11 and 12 named Ambitious Guardian designed to test and discuss a multi-agency, multi-state response to a notional cataclysmic incident in the District of Columbia. (Photo by Capt. Marvin J. Baker, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

WASHINGTON, D. C. — Several senior Virginia National Guard officers as well as members of the Joint Force Headquarters-Virginia staff joined nearly 200 members of a catastrophic response team from the Department of Defense and National Capital Region gathered at the Washington Navy Yard’s Admiral Gooding Center Feb. 11 and 12, 2014, for a two-day exercise named Ambitious Guardian. The exercise was designed to test and discuss a multi-agency, multi-state response to a notional cataclysmic incident in the District of Columbia.

The goal of the meeting was for members of the Virginia National Guard to understand exactly how Virginia, its neighboring states and other agencies would cooperatively respond to a catastrophe, said Brig. Gen. William R. Phillips, assistant commander of the 29th Infantry Division.

“That understanding will help us build a better plan that prepares the Guard to deploy and control our resources in an emergency,” he added.

The exercise included a moderated discussion about the role of key participants in disaster response, including the designated dual-status commander from the National Guard who maintains control over state and federal forces responding to an emergency. The discussion led the group to develop a unified plan in response to a notional earthquake in the National Capital Region.

With so many agencies responding to such an event, the most important thing is to quickly establish command and control, said Capt. Cari Kelso of the Virginia National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters in Sandston, Va. During the exercise, Phillips was chosen as the NCR dual-status commander. Each state must have at least one officer available who has received certification from a dual status command-training program.

The Virginia National Guard has five officers certified as dual status commanders.

“Emergency management response efforts must be de-conflicted. Nearly every agency will want to help out. An agency like the Virginia Department of Emergency Management can coordinate response effort so that agencies don’t duplicate the work,” said Kelso.

After Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard and federal-response agencies developed better plans to manage their resources. Some of those techniques were used during recent disasters like Super Storm Sandy and the Colorado wildfires, said Kelso.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Virginia Guard has mobilized nearly 7,500 members in response to state emergencies and around 15,000 for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, highlighting the need for a ready, relevant, and rapidly responding force that continually tests its roles and capabilities through exercises like Ambitious Guardian.

Written by by Capt. Marvin J. Baker, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs