By Shannon Arledge, Center for Domestic Preparedness External Affairs
The California National Guard’s Quick Reaction Force-South spent the first two weeks of August in the Appalachian foothills of northern Ala., receiving its annual training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness. The Center for Domestic Preparedness plays a leading role in preparing the United States and its cities to protect and respond to acts of terrorism, catastrophic natural disasters, civil disorders, major accidents involving hazardous or toxic materials, or events resulting in mass casualties.
Each state in the U.S. and its territories is home to one or more Quick Reaction Forces, military units especially trained to respond to emergencies on short notice. QRFs protect critical infrastructure and also focus efforts on security threats, natural disasters, and civil disturbances in all regions. The QRFs are comprised of U.S. Army National Guard soldiers and consist of all specialties necessary to respond to state requests for emergency assistance.
“This training is very relevant to our current events,” Brig. Gen. Donald Currier, commander of the California Army National Guard, said. “I think the soldiers have been impressed, and I certainly have been impressed by the quality of training. It is exactly what they need to provide the confidence to respond in times of domestic or other emergency situations.”
One benefit to the unit and state was the fact the center’s training is fully funded for state, local, and tribal emergency responders. Nearly 120 soldiers from Southern California’s 330th Military Police Company arrived in Ala. for law enforcement, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive, and other protective measures training to protect citizens and property in the event of an emergency, such as civil disturbances and chemical or biological hazards.
“Our level of effectiveness has increased,” said Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Whitaker, company readiness NCO. “All state Guard units need this training. This was cost free for the unit, and saved the state of California thousands of training dollars—and our state is more prepared and mission ready.”
A highlight of the training included a mass casualty triage exercise at the Chemical, Ordnance, Biological, and Radiological, or COBRA, Training Facility. The COBRA training incorporated the use of toxic nerve agents, in a safe and secure environment. This training demonstrated the effectiveness of personal protective equipment and improved the soldier’s confidence to operate in a contaminated environment.
“We are a huge force-multiplier because of this training,” said Capt. Andrew Hanson, the company’s commander. “After this training, I do not believe there is another unit [in California] that has the solid foundation for civil-disturbance and crowd-control response in a defense security environment, like the 330th.”
According to the soldiers, the CDP training was diverse, versatile, and fits into all aspects of emergency response. They hope the training received provides the skills necessary to be prepared to operate in California’s civil support framework.
“Compared to my military and civilian training, I can tell you that this training fits into any spectrum of law enforcement,” said Spc. Ashley Jordan, a military police soldier and nine-year civilian law enforcement veteran. “It can be molded into any environment. This was an amazing educational opportunity. Regardless of what you have received in the past, this exceeds expectation. I felt ready before I came here, but I feel more empowered and confident in my abilities now.”
More information on available training, visit the CDP website.
Members of the California National Guard’s Quick Reaction Force-South secure the site of a simulated crime scene involving possible chemical or biological hazards. The National Guard’s Quick Reaction Force-South spent the first two weeks of August training at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, located in Anniston, Ala. (Photo by Shannon Arledge, FEMA/CDP)