Virginia National Guard’s newest training venue nears opening date

FORT PICKETT, Va. – Construction was completed on the new training venue in the Old Hospital Area of Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center April 27, 2018. The new Structure Collapse Venue Site is intended to simulate a large building damaged by a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

“The idea is to instill an impression,” said Capt. Andrew Czaplicki, Operations Officer of the Richmond-based 34th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package. “We want Soldiers, Airmen and emergency responders to feel overwhelmed by a pile of rubble, twisted metal and broken concrete and by the shear size of the structure.”

Within the venue site is a 120 by 350- foot equipment laydown area and a 100 by 100-foot Simulated Collapsed Structure, which is surrounded by 11 independent and multi-configurable training lanes.

“Each lane offers Soldiers, Airmen and emergency responders an opportunity to practice a variety of lifesaving techniques around a simulated collapsed building,” said Czaplicki. “Lanes were specially designed for responders to meet specific [National Guard Bureau] requirements for training validation, including void and confined space breaching and breaking, collapse shoring, and lifting and hauling in both daylight and limited visibility areas.”

The National Guard Bureau’s Joint Collective Training Branch toured the new SCVS with Soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 3rd Homeland Response Force and 3rd Task Force – CBRN, who will be validating their mission training proficiency during the upcoming Vigilant Guard Exercise.

“The [Directorate of Public Works] at Fort Pickett has done a masterful job coordinating the multiple vendors and contractors required to bring this idea into a reality,” said Maj. C. Brandon Lindsey, deputy commander of the 34th CERFP. “There are several of these types of training venues across the country and the commonwealth, but this is the first one here at Fort Pickett. We can use the existing resources that [Fort] Pickett already offers to leverage the site’s training value. We can sleep here, eat here, refuel here and now train here without ever leaving post. It’s truly a one-stop shop.”

The SCS was constructed using steel shipping containers that have been securely mounted on shock absorbing concrete pylons and then welded together to create the illusion of a multi-story building. The training lanes surrounding the SCS were constructed by Soldiers assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s 329th Regional Support Group. Each lane uses a variety of materials to simulate parts of buildings that may have been damaged and have since become inaccessible for rescuers without specialized training or equipment. These lanes contain a mixture of concrete pipes, bricks, rocks, metal appliances, as well as home goods that add to the realism of confined spaces in an urban environment.

The equipment laydown area is a hardened, but permeable surface designed to allow multiple vehicles and equipment to operate simultaneously.

“The space is large enough to fit most technical rescue teams,” Czaplicki said. “No emergency situation will ever be a wide-open field with plenty of space, but we’re hoping that with the size of this laydown area we can reduce a lot of the training distractors.”

Soldiers, Airmen and emergency responders expected to train on the new site typically possess technical rescue skills based on the National Fire Protection Association 1670, Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents and Occupational Safety and Health Administration 29 Code of Federal Regulations, which pertains to confined spaces, at the minimum.

The construction of the SCVS conformed to the U.S. Army’s Training Circular 25-8 requirements. The circular provides range development and operations guidance for range planners, engineers, coordinators and mandated range-project review boards at all levels of the U.S. Army.