FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. --
More than 200 Airmen and Soldiers from the Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire National Guards came out to the rolling hills of Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania to participate in a week-long training exercise called CERFP New England August 7, 2017.
CERFP, which stands for CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive) enhanced response force package, is manned by specially-trained Guardsmen who would provide search and extraction, decontamination, medical, and command and control support during stateside emergencies.
“We have the Air National Guard and Army National Guard coming together to provide skills and equipment necessary to pull off [responding to] a mass casualty event,” said Army Maj. Michael Gary, the CERFP New England executive officer, assigned to the 521st Troop Command Battalion in Bangor, Maine. “We don’t do this all the time so we meet a couple times a year to get together and practice.”
Taking only 6 hours from the time the team receives notification of a notional bomb blast in Boston, the Airmen and Soldiers hopped onto 30 trucks and trailers and travelled to the scene of a mock mass casualty event.
Upon arrival, they deployed the CERFP resources, placing them on an area roughly the size of a football field.
Within the first two hours of arriving on the scene, after the team established its footprint, search and extraction personnel began the process of receiving mock ambulatory and non-ambulatory patients into the decontamination and medical care units, said Gary.
The CERFP New England Team gathers only twice a year, emphasizing the importance of establishing relationships during the exercise.
“The knowledge pool that we bring together is unmatched,” said Gary.
The National Guard’s ability to respond to emergencies such as a mass casualty event in a moments notice is a hallmark of its mission.
“We all have to be prepared in our jobs to say we have to leave at a moment’s notice,” said Air Force Capt. Kimberly G. Steinhagen, a CERFP member and a registered nurse assigned to the New Hampshire Air National Guard. “Family plans and taking care of our children, whatever may come, must be handled so we are available to deploy.”
CERFP New England prepares Guardsmen to connect and perform in an efficient manner, should disaster strike.
“I think everybody leaves here with a sense of confidence that, on short notice, they can link up with people they don’t know and make things happen,” said Gary.