LAKEWOOD, Colo. (4/13/13) -- Roughly 200 Colorado National Guard Soldiers and Airmen spent April 12-14 training at the West Metro Fire Training Center in Lakewood, Colo., in preparation for this summer’s multi-state National Guard Bureau evaluation.
The service members represent the state’s CERFP (CBRNE - Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosive - Enhanced Response Force Package) and are responsible for responding to such emergencies here in Colorado and if called upon, across the nation.
Their upcoming test, this summer's Vigilant Guard joint training exercise is being designed to test the state’s military and civilian responses and coordination capabilities should multiple major emergency incidents occur throughout the state.
“The purpose of this weekend’s training is to gear up for our summer training and certification event,” said Colorado Army National Guard Lt. Col. Seamus Doyle, CERFP commander. “The CERFP is unique in that we operate in both our wartime mission as a sustainment battalion and here at home in our emergency response mission.”
The CERFP consists of four main elements: search and extraction; decontamination; triage and medical care; and command and control, making it a vital part of the CONG’s state emergency response mission said COARNG Col. Mark Brackney, 169th Fires Brigade commander.
“We’re really trying to achieve a smooth interface with all the processes that comprise the CERFP,” said Colorado Air National Guard Lt. Col. Wade Bennett, CERFP medical commander. “It’s like learning how to put a big puzzle together, and these training events are invaluable to build and maintain our proficiency as a CERFP. The more times we can get out and practice, the better we’ll be.”
Bennett also noted that all of the highly mobile pieces of the CERFP may be activated individually or as a collective.
Soldiers and Airmen unload trucks and trailers full of gear, set up massive tents for decontamination, medical services and infrastructure management, then don chemical-resistant suits and tend to victims that are unearthed from debris and rubble by the search and extraction team -- ideally within six hours of being called.
“After setting up, my personnel rotate continuous shifts of about 40-minute iterations in suit with a 20-minute break,” said COARNG Capt. Timothy Trimbur , decontamination commander.
Each team’s rotation times may differ, but all personnel involved work around the clock, he said.
COARNG Spc. Michelle Rehak, a decontamination specialist, participated in her first CERFP training exercise this weekend.
“It’s a bit physically taxing, but it feels good knowing the great service we’re providing to the community,” said Rehak.
With recent attrition in the battalion, new soldiers like Rehak need this experience, said Doyle.
“There are a lot of new faces out here, and this is their first hands-on opportunity to train with the CERFP, and they’re knee deep in it,” said Doyle. “Our goals are to meet National Guard Bureau time standards while increasing our own proficiency. The more we can train, the better.”
Bennett echoed that sentiment, emphasizing the importance of having a highly trained emergency response system in place.
“No one ever really wants to have to utilize the CERFP, because that would mean something bad happened, but if they have to, we’ll be there,” Bennett said.