Special response force validated after external evaluation

A Virginia National Guard special response force capable of providing support to first responders and civil authorities after a chemical, biological or nuclear incident conducts an external evaluation April 25, 2017, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Amanda H. Johnson)

A Virginia National Guard special response force capable of providing support to first responders and civil authorities after a chemical, biological or nuclear incident conducts an external evaluation April 25, 2017, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Amanda H. Johnson)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Virginia National Guard’s Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear High Yield Explosive Response Force Package, known as the CERFP, received validation from external evaluators April 26, 2017, at the Virginia Beach Fire Training Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The evaluation validated the team of approximately 200 Soldiers and Airmen as fully training on 20 of 24 tasks.

The CERFP is capable of providing support to first responders and civil authorities after a chemical, biological or nuclear incident. They’re required to undergo an external evaluation once every three years. The evaluation is conducted during a simulated emergency situation that puts all six components of the team to work.

“We have very robust training scenarios that come from elements like our evaluators,” explained Lt. Col. Chris Dunn, commander of the CERFP. “Those scenarios are all developed on the threat in the world and the things that we see happening in the world today.”

The team includes both Army and Air National Guard units from Petersburg, West Point, Rocky Mount and Langley Air Force Base, as well as Airmen from the Washington, D.C. National Guard. The team is capable of conducting tasks including consequence management, incident site communications, urban search and rescue, mass causality decontamination, technical decontamination, medical triage and stabilization and human remains recovery.

“We’re almost the cavalry that’s coming in when it’s gotten too big,” Dunn explained on when the CERFP would be activated. He said the team could be activated for a small event within the commonwealth, but that it’s more likely the team would be called in to assist with a more large-scale event that would require responders from outside the immediate area.

The CERFP is unique in that it is a task force that includes elements from multiple different units rather than one specific unit:

  • Soldiers assigned to the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion provide command and control and incident management.
  • Soldiers assigned to the Rocky Mount-based 229th Chemical Company serve as a mass casualty decontamination element.
  • Soldiers from the West Point-based 237th Engineer Company operate as the search and extraction element.
  • Airmen assigned to the 192nd Medical Group stationed at Langley Air Force Base provide the mass casualty medical triage and treatment element.
  • Airmen assigned to the 192nd Communications Flight at Langley Air Force Based provide communications capability using the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability, or JISCC.
  • Airmen assigned to the 113th Service Squadron from the D.C. National Guard operate as a Fatality Search and Recovery Team.
  • The Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group provides training readiness oversight for the CERFP.

The West Virginia-based Joint Interagency Training and Education Center conducted the evaluation and oversee the exercise, along with personnel from National Guard Bureau. The evaluation tested the CERFP on a variety of major tasks including conducting search and extraction operations, conducting rope extraction operations, establishing a response decontamination site, conducting ambulatory and non-ambulatory decontamination, conducting military personnel and equipment decontamination, conducting casualty collection and medical triage and providing treatment and emergency care for causalities.

If an incident requiring CERFP support occurs, Soldiers and Airmen are alerted through the Virginia Guard Joint Operations Center and mobilized on state active duty. If the incident is located within Virginia they would proceed to the incident site and fall under the control of the incident commander. If the incident is located outside of Virginia, Joint Force Headquarters – Virginia would coordinate with the receiving state under the terms agreed to in the Emergency Mutual Aid Compact.

Virginia’s CERFP was authorized in June 2006. There are currently 27 CERFP teams available nationwide with three in FEMA Region 3 in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia.

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