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Vigilant Guard: Military emergency response proves valuable to public 
By Army National Guard Sgt. Bethany Fehringer, Joint Task Force-Centennial Public Affairs 
decontamination prep 

U.S. Army Sgt. Cooper Allen (right), chemical agent decontamination specialist with the 115th Maintenance Company, Utah National Guard, and Sgt. Jose Bulow, (left) survey team member with the 64th Civil Support Team, New Mexico National Guard, assist a mock victim during a natural-disaster training scenario decontamination exercise, at Exempla St. Joseph Hospital in Denver, Colo., July 23, 2013, as part of the 2013 Vigilant Guard exercise. Vigilant Guard, hosted by the Colorado National Guard, is a large-scale, multi-state, multi-agency exercise focused on inter-agency coordination in preparation for emergencies and catastrophic events in Colorado. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Zach Sheely/RELEASED)

Click here or on the photo to download a high-resolution image.

More Vigilant Guard videos, photos and print stories are available on DVIDS and Flickr.

NORTHGLENN, Colo. — CERFP: Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN)-Enhanced Response Force Package.

It’s a mouthful – but an important one – and the Colorado National Guard just took a big bite.

Hand-in-hand, U.S. Soldiers and Airmen of the 147th Brigade Support Battalion and 140th Medical Group, Colorado National Guard; along with the 81st Civil Support Team, North Dakota National Guard; joined forces to respond to a scenario as part of the Vigilant Guard exercise at the North Metro Fire Rescue District in Northglenn, Colo., July 23.

Vigilant Guard is a week-long exercise consisting of various scenarios based on wildfires, tornadoes, aircraft accidents, hazmat response, search and rescue, triage, medical evacuations and other emergency-response measures. This exercise will provide the Colorado National Guard and supporting military units an opportunity to improve cooperation and operational relationships with their local, state, non-governmental organizations and federal partners.

Employees of the North Metro Fire Rescue District set up an incident site complete with destroyed vehicles, large mountains of man-made concrete rubble and civilian role players covered in mock burns, bruises, cuts and contusions. Colorado's CERFP conducted various scenarios to validate that Colorado’s CERFP is relevant and ready to respond.

The overarching scenario itself was hypothetical: A shopping center was struck by a tornado, collapsing structures and trapping individuals, while possibly releasing hazardous chemicals into the area. The various teams responded to several exercise scenarios that would be typical to such a disaster.

So what exactly is CERFP?

CERFP has five primary capabilities: medical, which provides evaluation and triaging for evacuation; decontamination; search and extraction, which searches for victims and extracts them from collapsed structures; and command and control.

A Civil Support Team’s mission is to assess hazards, advise civil authorities and facilitate military support during emergencies or disasters. In addition, the CST advises civilian responders on appropriate actions through on-site testing and expert consultation, and assists and facilitates in the arrival of follow-on state and federal military forces.

Military and civilian first responders have different equipment, so they train together in such exercises to build partnerships, leading to interagency cooperation and coordination that improves safety and ultimately saves lives.

"Everyone was doing a good job. Once we got going today, they knew exactly what to do," said Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Hunt, a chaplain assistant with the Colorado Air National Guard’s 140th Wing, who not only witnessed the day’s events, but was also there to provide care, comfort and spiritual guidance to military and civilian responders alike.

In all, approximately 2,300 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from eight different states and hundreds of civilian medical personnel and first responders have come together for the greater good of Colorado and each home state.