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NEWS | Aug. 4, 2022

Colorado chemical response team receives top marks during Oregon exercise evaluation

By Tech. Sgt. Chance Johnson, 140th Wing Public Affairs

The Colorado National Guard 8th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package traveled to Camp Rilea, Oregon, in July 9-17, 2022, to perform a full-scale external evaluation.

This exercise, performed at a national level, demonstrated Colorado CERFP's capabilities to collectively deploy and respond in times of crisis. The exercise determined a mission readiness recommendation to the National Guard Bureau, U.S. Northern Command and the Adjutant General of Colorado.

“The National Guard requires the CRE [CBRNE Response Enterprise] to show that CERFPs are not only ready through training requirements, medical requirements, equipment readiness, and other administrative related items, but that the elements that make up the CERFP can effectively deploy together and execute training in a field environment,” U.S. Air Force Maj. Elizabeth Gray, CERFP director of operations, said. “On three-year rotations, National Guard evaluators will assess and grade a CERFP's response to a provided CBRNE scenario.”

The evaluation tested CERFP’s ability to deploy and accomplish a list of training and evaluation outlines written by NGB, specific to each element of the team.

The medical element, for example, had to maintain an effective command and control center, integrate medics with the Army search and extraction element, perform triage in a contaminated zone while in the CBRNE protective suit, re-triage decontaminated casualties, and provide emergency medical care and stabilization of casualties prior to arranging transport to a higher level of care.

The CO CERFP EXEVAL was an objective-based, scenario-driven exercise using simulated and live play. It was supported by observer-controller’s, actors, simulators, and unfolding events provided via a master scenario event list. The scenarios are based on real-world events to simulate a typical CBRN domestic incident response.

“Camp Rilea provided a training environment compatible with what the team would be evaluated on and allowed the team to prove its capability to deploy outside of our state,” Gray said. “It had a large rubble pile with opportunities for the search and extraction team to perform all of their necessary tasks, including but not limited to shoring (temporarily supporting a building, vessel, structure or trench with bracing when in danger of collapse or during repairs or alterations), use of ropes, breaching, and working in confined spaces to rescue victims. It also had space for all other elements of the team to execute their mission.”

The Colorado CERFP received top marks on training and evaluation across all elements, certifying the team as fully trained and capable to respond to a real-world event.

“We put in long hours and a lot of hard physical work over the past several months leading up to and during EXEVAL,” CERFP Medical Element Commander U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Ochsner said. “Therefore, it is extremely rewarding and validating when the NGB evaluators identified us as one of the best teams in the nation. Our leadership team could not be happier with everyone’s efforts and attitudes. We are incredibly proud of this team.”

CERFP is a state, regional, and national all-hazards response team with the intent of deploying within six hours of notification to support first responders or emergency and disaster response agencies. Capabilities include search and extraction from collapsed structures and other hazardous areas, decontamination of personnel in the affected area, remains recovery, communications support, and a command and control element.

In addition, CO CERFP integrates with Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams and Homeland Response Forces as part of CRE to enhance hazard identification, evaluation, mitigation, force protection, and command and control. CO CERFP assists first responders in assessing the likely outcome of a catastrophic event, developing consequence management tactics, and augmenting emergency management agency capabilities.