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NEWS | June 21, 2016

Kentucky Guardsmen test search and rescue skills during Vigilant Guard

By 1st Lt. Michael Reinersman 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The Kentucky National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High-Yield Explosives (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) tested its search and rescue, extraction and recovery capabilities June 11, at the Satsop Business Park in Elma, Washington. As part of a Vigilant Guard exercise, the Kentucky CERFP teamed with local and state agencies to simulate a mass-casualty search and rescue operation.

“Generally, we just test our skills,” said Maj. Travis Huber, CERFP deputy commander, and 103rd Chemical Battalion executive officer.

“But these exercises give us the opportunity to integrate and coordinate with civilian search and rescue teams, sheriff departments, Fire/EMS, the county corner and local civilian authorities, just like it would happen in the event of a real disaster.”

The Kentucky CERFP, comprised of Army Guardsmen assigned to the 103rd Chemical Battalion and Airmen of the 123rd Airlift Wing, trained with the Oregon National Guard the week prior as part as Cascadia Rising 2016, a full-scale exercise involving federal, state, county, military and city agencies. The exercise was designed to test the Pacific Northwest’s earthquake response plan in the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) event. According to, conducting successful life-saving and life-sustaining response operations in the aftermath of a CSZ disaster will hinge on the effective coordination and integration of governments at all levels. The Vigilant Guard exercise stimulated that coordination.

“This is the first time we were able to integrate National Guard troops with our civilian search and rescue teams during a large scale event,” said Deputy Sheriff Sean Gow, Grays Harbor County, Washington, search and rescue coordinator.

“We were able to figure out some communication glitches and learned how we can improve on that for future operations,” Gow said.

Soldiers and Airmen worked side-by-side with volunteers from Grays Harbor County Volunteer Search and Rescue and Washington State Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue which use cadaver dogs and live-find dogs during urban and wide-area search exercises. More than 60 role players acted as victims during the exercise at the Satsop Business Park, which was originally constructed as a nuclear power plant, but never finished. The park includes cooling towers, tunnels, warehouse and office space.

“This scenario put us in an environment we could not simulate,” said Spc. Alexander Napier, a CERFP search and extraction team member, and Soldier assigned to the 103rd.

“I learned a lot from the Washington State Task Force 1, and I liked working with their dog handlers on different search techniques,” he said.

Pfc. Zachary Miller, a CERFP search and extraction team member, assigned to the 301st Chemical Company said the Vigilant Guard exercise was rewarding.

“With so many victims in a large facility, we really had to search, and this scenario made us use other skills, such as crowd control techniques,” said Miller.

The search and rescue exercise was just one of a variety of training opportunities for the Guardsmen during their annual training spent in the Pacific Northwest.

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