National Guard May 2012 : Page 40

STATE ROUNDUP Close to Home New Missouri Guard response force earns its validation at an event that simulated an attack on its home city 40 T WAS THE kind of situation that would be a nightmare for St. Louis officials, but one for which the Missouri National Guard’s homeland response force (HRF) was created. Without warning, a chemical explo-sion rocked crowded Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis during a Dis-ney on Ice performance. Similar deto-nations occurred at Children’s Hospi-tal and in the city’s Compton Heights neighborhood. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were dead. Many more were injured, I | Na tional Guard

State Roundup

New Missouri Guard response force earns its validation at an event that simulated an attack on its home city

IT WAS THE kind of situation that would be a nightmare for St. Louis officials, but one for which the Missouri National Guard’s homeland response force (HRF) was created.

Without warning, a chemical explosion rocked crowded Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis during a Disney on Ice performance. Similar detonations occurred at Children’s Hospital and in the city’s Compton Heights neighborhood.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were dead. Many more were injured, trapped in the contaminated rubble or both. And the city was in chaos.

Fortunately, the attack wasn’t real. It was merely the scenario the Missouri Guard HRF confronted in March at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC) near Butlerville, Ind., to become the Guard’s latest operational domestic-response team.

HRFs are the newest addition to the Guard’s arsenal of units trained and equipped to quickly respond to the consequences of a domestic incident involving weapons of mass destruction.

Each team consists of 566 specially trained and equipped Guard soldiers and airmen from a variety of units— medical, engineer, chemical and military police—and a command-andcontrol element.

The Defense Department plan is to have 10 HRFs, one in each of the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency Regions, ready to go by the end of this fiscal year.

The Missouri Guard HRF is the seventh of the 10 to earn validation. It covers FEMA Region 7, which includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, and is headquartered in Jefferson City, Mo., about 100 miles from St. Louis.

Validation, however, wasn’t easy, especially during the exercise at MUTC.

Missouri Guardsmen wore chemical suits and respirators to locate and extract hundreds of people from the disaster sites. They then decontaminated the victims and provided each with emergency medical treatment, all the while securing the affected areas from onlookers.

All of this took place in front of observers from the Joint Interagency Training and Education Center from Camp Dawson, W.Va., who graded every responder’s move in the goal toward certification.

“This was our culminating exercise,” said Col. Wendul G. Hagler, the Missouri HRF commander. “We had to manage our forces appropriately and mitigate human suffering as quickly.”

Since realism was an important aspect of the proceedings, civilians portraying the victims displayed various wounds through the application of creative makeup, while smoke billowed from the buildings in which they were trapped.

Many were deliberately uncooperative with military police, while others cried out for help.

“This exercise is requiring us to do things we don’t normally do as military police,” said Lt. Col. Rodney Ginter, the commander of the 205th Military Police Battalion, which fielded troops from six companies during the exercise. “We are dealing with people who are not always happy and we have to do it in a chemical suit. This raises the bar for us because it is so realistic and that is a credit to everyone involved.” Ginter pointed out the flexibility of the 1140th Military Police Company from Fulton, Mo., which decontaminated the victims in place of a chemical decontamination unit currently deployed to the Middle East.

The units that comprise the Missouri Guard HRF devoted countless hours of training to prepare for the validation event.

They also spent several days at MUTC setting up their equipment, going through drills, tearing it back down and doing it again, all to prepare for the final three-day evaluation.

Nevertheless, Hagler said the March exercise was just the beginning for his team.

“The validation is just one step,” he explained. “Now the work is really in sustaining this level of training. Muscatatuck gave us as fair and close a representation of reality as we could get. I came here during [the Ohio HRF’s] validation exercise and couldn’t imagine going anywhere else for this kind of exercise.”

Soldier Makes Ultimate Sacrifice To Save Child in Afghanistan
Sgt. Dennis Weichel Jr.’s friends and fellow soldiers say he was a friendly, professional and generous man who always had a smile on his face, but never lost sight of the importance of his mission.

So it came as no surprise when Weichel sacrificed his own life to save an Afghan child March 22.

“He would have done it for anybody,” said Staff Sgt. Ronald Corbett, Weichel’s mentor, who deployed with him to Iraq in 2005. “That was the way he was. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was that type of guy.”

That morning, the member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry, was leaving the Black Hills Firing Range in eastern Afghanistan with his unit when their convoy stopped to clear a group of children in the road ahead.

Weichel was among those who helped woo the kids away. He then noticed one of the children dart back into the path of an oncoming mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle to pick up an item in the road. As he moved the child to safety, Weichel was struck by the vehicle.

He was evacuated from the scene and died later from his injuries.

He had been a member of the Rhode Island Army National Guard since 2001.He deployed to Iraq in 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Weichel was considered a model soldier, said 1st Sgt. Nicky Peppe, who also served with Weichel in Iraq.

“He was a big kid at heart. He always had a smile on his face and he made everyone laugh,” he said. “But as much as Weichel was funny, he was also a professional. When it was time to go outside the wire for a combat patrol, he was all business.” Weichel is survived by three children, his fiancée and his parents.

—By Kris Gonzalez

District of Columbia

Beautiful Sight: Eye Doctors Treat Underserved in Hawaii

Some optometrists with the 113th Wing were in high demand recently at the Hanapepe Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) Facility located on a medically underserved area on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

The District of Columbia National Guardsmen, along with members of the other military branches, set up three field-operated medical facilities in Kapa’a, Lihue and Hanapepe as part of an Innovative Readiness Training mission.

They provided medical, ophthalmology and dental support services to Hawaii residents, while conducting deployment and readiness training from Feb. 26 to March 10. In Hanapepe, the ophthalmology line was longer than any of the other services.

“I had no idea of how much demand there was in Hawaii for ophthalmology, since it is a part of the U.S., but just looking at the line outside, you can see which line is the longest. It’s been like that the entire time,” said Lt. Col. Vince Simoncini, an optometrist with the 113th.

“We could be here for a month and I don’t think we would ever meet the demand,” he said.

The optometrists served more than 300 patients per day, providing free eye exams and glasses.

“Working efficiently and adjusting our process to accommodate the patients without cutting corners—that has been valuable training for us,” Simoncini said. “The technicians have also been able to do things that they can’t back at home.”

That is the primary point of IRT missions, but a close second is offering medical care to underserved U.S. populations in remote areas.

“Training is ultimately why we are here,” Simoncini said, “but we can’t overlook the humanitarian aspect of it because that’s the real joy in this mission.”

—By Tech. Sgt. Melissa Chatham


Golden State Selects its First Hispanic Female General Officer

Brig. Gen. Sylvia Crockett became the first Hispanic woman to become a general officer in the California National Guard after her promotion at the Capitol in Sacramento March 29.

“With the amount of Hispanic people in California, it’s a great opportunity to serve in a position that in many ways will serve as an example for many young women and men in the Latino or Latina community to realize that they, too, can reach the top,” said Crockett, who now serves as director of strategic communications for the state’s Military Department.

Crockett’s promotion coincided with Women’s History Month, a tradition with origins in Sonoma, Calif., which observed the nation’s first Women’s History Week in March 1978. The annual March celebration raises awareness of the importance of equality and diversity in the United States.

Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, the California adjutant general, said Crockett will take over important and visible roles in the state.

The director of strategic communication for the state Military Department has responsibility for the California National Guard’s public aff airs programs and its legislative liaison with state lawmakers and the nation’s largest congressional delegation.

“[This position] takes a lot of skill, which you have, and we recognize that,” said Gov. Jerry Brown, who hosted the ceremony.

—California National Guard report


Show of Strength: Artillery Unit Trains With South Korean Army

South Korean and Army National Guard units unleashed a precise barrage of 155mm artillery rounds during a live-fire exercise March 15 at a training range close to the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

The Utah Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 145th Artillery, and the Republic of Korea army’s 628th Artillery Battalion conducted a combined artillery live-fire exercise as part of the Foal Eagle exercise at the Rodriguez Live-Fire Complex.

Lined up together, the U.S. artillerymen shot numerous rounds from their 155mm self-propelled M-109A6 Paladins, and the ROK army unit fired 155mm K-55 self-propelled rounds.

Lt.Col. Adam Robinson, the American commander, said the exercise gave his soldiers the chance to demonstrate their unit’s relevancy in today’s world.

“This live-fire exercise was a great opportunity to come to Korea and train with our ROK allies,” Robinson said. “The best way to ensure peace is to be ready to defend it.”

Army officials said bringing a Guard unit to South Korea demonstrated the ROK-U.S. alliance’s ability to quickly integrate units from the continental United States into operations on the Korean Peninsula.

“This exercise highlighted the flexibility, responsiveness and strength of our alliance,” said Col. Andy Mutter, the Eighth Army public affairs officer. “These battalions came together, overcame communication and language barriers and flawlessly performed their mission.”

Foal Eagle is an annual event aimed at preparing the Combined Forces Command to deter or defeat aggression against South Korea and maintain stability in Northeast Asia.

—By Walter T. Ham IV


Army Guard Medics Teach Basic First Aid in Bangladesh

Two medics from the 249th Regional Training Institute taught basic first aid to soldiers from several countries during Exercise Shanti Doot 3 in Bangladesh from March 4 to 21.

Staff Sgt. Darrin Culp and Staff Sgt. Tyson Pardun joined members of the Oregon National Guard’s State Partnership Program as subject-matter experts in basic self-aid and lifesaving techniques.

Organizers designed the joint multinational exercise to provide operations, logistics, planning and tactical peacekeeping training to troops from 13 different countries preparing for U. N. peacekeeping duties.

The Bangladesh armed forces hosted the event with support from the U. S. Pacific Command Global Peace Operations Initiative.

Armed only with their knowledge, Culp and Pardun arrived in Bangladesh and designed the curriculum based on the needs of the exercise, as determined through discussions with the PACOM representatives and Bangladeshi organizers.

The two medics gathered sticks and squares of cloth for splints and bandages and used spare belts and butter knifes borrowed from the dining facility to use as litters and tourniquets.

“We weren’t allowed to bring any of our own equipment,” Pardun said. “They wanted us to use things that these platoons could find themselves.”

The partnership of Oregon and Bangladesh was formally established in 2008 and has resulted in numerous interactions between the Oregon Guard and respective Bangladeshi institutions.

—By Master Sgt. Jon Dyer


Kosovo Force Peacekeepers March to Honor Bataan POWs

Twenty Wisconsin Army National Guard soldiers were among the members of the Kosovo peacekeeping force who honored victims of the Bataan Death March by walking in a memorial event in the newly independent Balkan nation.

“Participating in the Bataan Memorial March was a fitting way to pay tribute to all the heroic service members who made the ultimate sacrifice defending the Philippine Islands during World War II,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Hudson, who helped organize the 13.1-mile march at Camp Bondsteel March 26.

“All those who entered and took part did so out of sheer preservation and determination—not unlike the soldiers who marched in the actual Bataan Death March,” he said.

Hudson also took part in the “heavy” category, which required participants to carry at least 35 pounds on their backs.

Ninety-nine members of the Wisconsin National Guard’s Company A, 192nd Tank Battalion, were part of the force that defended the Bataan peninsula in the Philippines for three months until disease, lack of supplies and hunger compelled their surrender to the Japanese on April 9, 1942.

Approximately 76,000 prisoners endured the 80-mile forced march to Balanga, the capital of Bataan. Many of those who didn’t fall to exhaustion, wounds or illness were killed by their captors along the way.

Up to 10,000 Filipinos and as many as 650 Americans died before reaching Camp O’Donnell, where the death toll only mounted.

Only one third of the original members of Company A lived to see their unit liberated three years later.

—Wisconsin National Guard report


Sappers Clearing the Way, Saving Lives in Afghanistan

Sappers have a long history of “clearing the way” on the battlefield. Today, in southern Afghanistan, with the roadside bomb the enemy’s weapon of choice, clearing the way is as important as ever. In Uzugan province, the chore falls to the 288th Sapper Company.

The Mississippi Army National Guard unit, which deployed in November 2011, provides freedom of movement in and around the Dorifshan, Baluchi, Chorah, Mirabad, Tangi and Deh Rawood valleys for local residents and coalition forces.

Unit members accomplish their mission not by trying to avoid improvised explosive devices, but by searching them out and destroying them.

“The mission is going great,” said Capt. Brenton Montgomery, the company commander. “These guys are awesome. They have been cleaning house around here.”

Keeping the house clean in southern Afghanistan requires a variety of tools and tactics and a whole lot of attention to detail, said 2nd Lt. Alex Armstrong, a platoon leader with the 288th.

“Route clearance had previously always been mounted and a lot of the guys had the ‘death before dismount’ mentality,” he said, “but neutralizing the IED threat here in Afghanistan sometimes requires the soldiers to get out and look, to use dog teams if they have them.

“You have to treat the whole area as a minefield almost because you never know where it’s going to be.”

Montgomery said getting out on foot also provides extra benefits.

“In the winter season, everything slowed down [and] the guys got a chance to walk through some of the villages, actually meet some people, drink some chai with the village elders,” he said. “The last couple of weeks that’s paid off. They have actually led us to a couple IEDs.”

The unit had 18 IED finds and seven detonations through March.

“Everyone has walked away from the explosions,” said Armstrong. “One truck ended up in three pieces, but everyone walked away unharmed. It’s amazing the equipment that the Army is giving us.”

Still, challenges persist.

“The hardest thing in Afghanistan is to weed out the false positives,” he said. “And the poppy fields can be a dangerous place because they are often heavily protected.”

—Sgt. Catherine Threat

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