INDIANA GUARD STANDS UP TASK FORCE FOR POSSIBLE WMD ATTACKS

Indiana Guardsmen received a new Homeland Security mission this year, but not a lot of time to make it happen. It’s called the CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package or CERF-P, said as “surf-p,” and by next August, a combined force of Army and Air Guardsman must be ready to assist local first responders in the event of a weapon-of-mass destruction incident.
“It’s an exciting time to be in the Indiana National Guard,” said Col. Mark E. Coers, commander of the 81st Troop Command, which will provide command and control in the case of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or enhanced improvised explosives threat, known in the military as a CBRNE threat. The force package will also address natural disasters, such as floods.
The Indiana CERF-P is one of 17 spread across the 10 FEMA regions that cover the continental United States. Each CERF-P covers a geographical radius that puts support of major cities within a five-hour drive. They are meant to bridge the gap between local first responders and federal assistance.
According to the CERF-P mission statement, Indiana Guardsmen will provide medical, decontamination, search and extraction, fatality search and recovery support to civil authorities in Indiana, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the United States to save lives, relieve suffering, restore order and to calm the public.
The CERF-P members have to move fast. Within six hours of being notified, they must be out the door and heading to the scene, where they’re expected to process 225 ambulatory and 75 non-ambulatory patients per hour.
The Indiana Guard’s 81st Troop Command will staff the command and control element with 16 Soldiers. A big part of their work will be facilitated by a new communication system that allows CERF-P members to send situational awareness back to the operations center. It’s called the CVG4200, an entire portable office suite stored in a weather-proof container the size of a small suitcase. It includes a scanner, a printer, a webcam, a satellite phone, a GPS, a laptop computer and the capability to be powered from a vehicle.
“This system can give us the eyes on,” said Capt. Michael Hannon, the information technology officer for the 81stTroop Command. Eventually, the systems will be distributed to the appropriate units, he said.
Besides command and control, the Indiana CERF-P breaks down into four operational elements that come from the Army Guard’s 1313th Engineering Company and 438th Chemical Company and the Air Guard’s 181st and 122nd Wings.
They’ll be called into action when local first responders become overwhelmed or ill-equipped to handle the situation. Activation orders come down from the governor, through the adjutant general. It will be a state active duty response, even though the work will be done in conjunction with federal agencies. The type of event will determine who is in charge of the scene, according to Coers.
Fifty soldiers from the 1313th Engineers will provide search and extraction, a capability that the Indiana Guard never had before. Coers gave this mission as an example of how CERF-P is beneficial to the Indiana Guard. These engineers could be called upon to assist in missions outside of CERF-P, he said.
Seventy-five soldiers from the 438th Chemical will provide decontamination in cases of chemical, biological and radiological exposure. They’ll be using state-of-the-art commercial equipment to do the job.
The 181st and 122nd Indiana Air Guard wings will staff the Medical element with 47 Airmen and provide another 11 Airmen for the Fatality Search and Recovery Element.
Indiana was selected for CERF-P last spring. Train-up began in July, and classroom instruction continues for guardsmen targeted for CERF-P participation. Equipment will begin arriving in April. Validation comes in August, at which time the Indiana CERF-P should be ready for the first mission.

The Waynedale News Staff
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Sgt. Jim Bowie, 81st Troop Command, 120th Public Affairs Detachment

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