SANDSTON, Va. – Nearly 40 members of the Virginia Army and Air National Guard completed two, back-to-back U.S. Northern Command-sponsored training courses June 8, 2015, in Sandston, Va.
Both Soldiers and Airmen needed to complete both the Joint Operations Center Training Course and the Joint Staff Training Course as a part of their assignment to the Joint Force Headquarters – Virginia, where they train to take on roles as a joint task force in the event of large-scale disasters, such as hurricanes, floods and terrorist attacks.
“Both courses are typically completed separately, but the approach in scheduling the courses back-to-back was intentional and was supposed to give the staff a more intense experience,” said Lt. Col. Todd E. Peebles, Virginia National Guard deputy director of exercises and implementation. “This also allowed us to use the culminating staff exercise the following week as kind of a validation for our civil support knowledge, JOC operations and best practices.”
The weeklong training courses consisted of a review of basic National Incident Management System principles, a series of compounding practical exercises and classroom instruction led by subject matter experts assigned to the Wyoming-based North American Aerospace Defense Command and NORTHCOM Joint Training Education Division.
During the training, the NORTHCOM instructors prepared multiple tabletop exercises based on all-hazards emergency preparedness contingencies and crisis action planning which are designed to prepare National Guard leaders and members of the Joint Staff to coordinate and integrate military and federal agencies during a disaster. The JSTC scenarios were tailored to the Virginia National Guard by incorporating historical examples of weather and other emergencies into the practical exercises.
Before attending the JSTC, participants were required to complete the Joint Domestic Operations Course, a 50-hour distance-learning course.
Requiring attendees to complete the JDOC prior to the JOCTC and then immediately attend the JSTC is a method adopted in the Virginia National Guard and is under consideration among other states.
“The building block approach is something that NORTHCOM will consider adopting in future iterations,” Peebles said. “We are excited about the prospect and it’s gratifying that our methodology may play a role in influencing joint training programs and teaching methods across the country.”
Members of the National Guard are often called upon to work with local emergency responders, state and federal agencies, and federal military forces during major events occurring in their state, such as natural disasters or large-scale social events.