National Guard January 2011 : Page 22

Preparing for the Worst The Guard is creating new units to boost the nation’s ability to respond to attacks terrorists remain determined to carry out By William Matthews HE TRUCK IN Times Square smolders, but fails to explode. FBI agents ar-rest a Pakistani-American who shot surveillance video for use in planning attacks on subway stations near the Pentagon. Printer cartridges rigged with explosives and mailed by al-Qaeda in Yemen are intercepted and disarmed en route to Chicago. Elsewhere, passengers subdue the Nigerian “underwear bomber” before he can blow up an airliner bound for Detroit. And a Somali-born teenager is caught plotting an attack on a Christ-mas tree lighting ceremony in Port-land, Ore. Clearly, the United States remains a prime target for terrorists. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the nation has been vigilant, proactive and, perhaps most of all, lucky. But that won’t stop terrorists from trying. The string of recent attempted attacks and the threat of more to come have prompted the Defense Depart-ment to begin standing up new home-land response forces designed to react faster and to emphasize saving lives. These new units, called HRFs, will T be a key new capability in the Na-tional Guard. To many military planners, a suc-cessful attack on the United States may well be far worse than the plots that have failed or have been foiled. Consider “Scenario One.” It’s a hy-pothetical attack on the United States used in war games for planning pur-poses: A 10-kiloton nuclear weapon explodes in a major city. Most buildings within a half mile are destroyed or severely damaged. Thousands of people, perhaps more, are killed instantly. Thousands more are trapped in collapsed buildings. Tens of thousands require medical care and radiation decontamination. Fires rage, communication is spotty, and water and electricity are cut off. Half a million people must be evacuated and the need for transpor-tation, food and shelter is overwhelm-ing. Fear, despair and disorder ensue. 22 | Na tional Guard

Preparing for the Worst

William Matthews

The Guard is creating new units to boost the nation's ability to respond to attacks terrorists remain determined to carry out<br /> <br /> THE TRUCK IN Times Square smolders, but fails to explode. FBI agents arrest a Pakistani-American who shot surveillance video for use in planning attacks on subway stations near the Pentagon. Printer cartridges rigged with explosives and mailed by al-Qaeda in Yemen are intercepted and disarmed en route to Chicago.<br /> <br /> Elsewhere, passengers subdue the Nigerian "underwear bomber" before he can blow up an airliner bound for Detroit. And a Somali-born teenager is caught plotting an attack on a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore.<br /> <br /> Clearly, the United States remains a prime target for terrorists. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the nation has been vigilant, proactive and, perhaps most of all, lucky.<br /> <br /> But that won't stop terrorists from trying. The string of recent attempted attacks and the threat of more to come have prompted the Defense Department to begin standing up new homeland response forces designed to react faster and to emphasize saving lives.<br /> <br /> These new units, called HRFs, will be a key new capability in the National Guard.<br /> <br /> To many military planners, a successful attack on the United States may well be far worse than the plots that have failed or have been foiled.<br /> <br /> Consider "Scenario One." It's a hypothetical attack on the United States used in war games for planning purposes: A 10-kiloton nuclear weapon explodes in a major city.<br /> <br /> Most buildings within a half mile are destroyed or severely damaged. Thousands of people, perhaps more, are killed instantly. Thousands more are trapped in collapsed buildings. Tens of thousands require medical care and radiation decontamination.<br /> <br /> Fires rage, communication is spotty, and water and electricity are cut off. Half a million people must be evacuated and the need for transportation, food and shelter is overwhelming. Fear, despair and disorder ensue. GROWING RESPONSE The Texas Guard's CERFP treats mock casualties during training. The unit will be part of one of 10 new homeland response forces.<br /> <br /> There are other scenarios. Radiological, biological and chemical attacks are played out by military and civilian planners trying to get ahead of the threat and its possible consequences.<br /> <br /> Grim results from these war games helped spur the creation of HRFs.<br /> <br /> Under orders from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates spelled out in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the Guard is establishing 10 HRFs, one for each of the Federal Emergency Management Agency regions nationwide.<br /> <br /> Each HRF is to contain about 570 soldiers and airmen, including more than 140 fulltime personnel.<br /> <br /> They will be expected to arrive at the scene of an attack or other disaster within six to 12 hours. That's much faster than today's premier disaster response units can respond.<br /> <br /> Those are CCMRFs–4,700-member "federal entry forces" that are supposed to arrive at the scene of a disaster within 96 hours. CCMRF, pronounced "see-smurfs," stands for CBRNE Consequence Management Reaction Force. CBRNE is short for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive.<br /> <br /> They were created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and with the 9/11 terrorist attack still fresh in mind. The idea was to establish rapid-reaction forces able to respond to major disasters, particularly CBRNE attacks.<br /> <br /> Plans called for three of them–one comprised mainly of active-component Army troops, the other two mainly of Guard and Reserve soldiers.<br /> <br /> The CCMRFs were designed to deliver a comprehensive array of capabilities, from hazard assessments immediately after an incident to communications, decontamination, air and land transportation, logistical support and even mortuary services.<br /> <br /> But a detailed examination of them during the QDR convinced Gates to change course. The CCMRFs, he concluded, would move too slowly to save lives and control the chaos that would follow an attack.<br /> <br /> Gates also made it clear in the QDR report he sent to Congress that he thinks the danger of an attack on the United States is serious and increasing.<br /> <br /> And hostile attackers aren't the only threats to the U.S. homeland. There is also a "full range of potential natural disasters" to be dealt with, Gates said.<br /> <br /> The defense secretary decided to scrap two of the three CCMRFs and replace them with 10 HRFs drawn from "existing National Guard forces" to "provide a regional response capability."<br /> <br /> When not actually responding to emergencies, they are to focus on planning, training and exercising, and on forging "strong links between the federal level and state and local authorities," Gates said.<br /> <br /> The most important improvement HRFs will bring is faster response, says Col. Jerry Rees, the director of operations for the Ohio National Guard.<br /> <br /> "If you get there in 96 hours plus, you're in the mitigation phase," he says. "But if you can get there in six hours, you can save lives."<br /> <br /> Rees is in the midst of setting up an HRF in Ohio, one of the first two nationwide. The other will be in Washington state. Both are to be operational by Sept. 30. The other eight HRFs are to be ready by Sept. 30, 2012.<br /> <br /> Some Guard leaders, however, believe the timelines for HRFs to become operational could be overly ambitious. The Pentagon has yet to validate requirements or provide funds to cover all the anticipated training requirements.<br /> <br /> Still, many in and out of the Guard are excited about the HRFs.<br /> <br /> "Anybody who has really dug into the issue of disaster relief and emergency response would support the HRFs because the biggest issue is timeliness," says a congressional aide who monitors Guard matters closely.<br /> <br /> One reason CCMRFs can't react quickly is that they are not geographically dispersed, he says. With only three of them, there are a lot of places where disasters can strike without a CCMRF nearby.<br /> <br /> Another problem with CCMRFs is control. By tradition–and, to a large extent, by law–the job of protecting Americans at home is assigned to non-defense agencies such as federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies.<br /> <br /> But the CCMRFs are federal entities controlled by U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM). As such, they're a step removed from state authorities, who are first in line to respond when disasters occur. Replacing two of the three CCMRFs with 10 HRFs will put more capability under state-level civilian control.<br /> <br /> Senior Pentagon officials acknowledged the importance of the Guard's state role as the HRFs were being developed.<br /> <br /> "We felt it was important to recognize the political reality that nine times out of 10, an event is going to be controlled at the state level by the governor," Christine Wormuth, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas' security affairs, told the National Guard Domestic Operations Workshop early last year.<br /> <br /> With 10 HRFs to serve 50 states, obviously, states will have to share. When an HRF located in one state is called to respond to an incident in another, the troops sent to "the gaining state" will come under the command of that state's governor, Rees says.<br /> <br /> Similar arrangements exist today under emergency management assistance compacts, he says.<br /> <br /> When all 10 HRFs are in place, there will be one within a few hundred miles of any likely disaster site.<br /> <br /> In addition to speeding up the response, HRFs will be able to deliver a force more tailored to a particular incident, says Lt. Col. Charles Lawhorn, the project manager for homeland response forces at the National Guard Bureau.<br /> <br /> Each HRF is to include:<br /> <br /> • 45 doctors and other medics;<br /> <br /> • 50 troops trained and equipped for search and extraction;<br /> • A 75-member decontamination team;<br /> • 200 security troops; and<br /> • 200 command-and-control specialists.<br /> <br /> If the configuration of the HRF sounds somewhat familiar, it is. The core of each of these new units is a 170-troop CBRNE-enhanced response force package. The Guard has 17 CERFPs across the country. Nine will be transformed into HRFs, but nine new ones are being created to replace them.<br /> <br /> An HRF "is basically a CERFP with a security element and an enhanced command-and-control element," Lawhorn says. But the added security element and more robust command-and-control capability make the HRF a lot more flexible, he says.<br /> <br /> "The magic of it is how scalable it is," he adds.<br /> <br /> In addition to its own CERFP-like force, an HRF has the command-and-control capability to manage three or even four added CERFPs, Lawhorn says. That creates a CBRNE-qualified response force of up to 1,250.<br /> <br /> Thus, an HRF can be sized to respond to a chemical leak, a tornado, a hurricane or a CBRNE attack by terrorists, he says. "Today, based on the threat environment we live in, we have to be ready for anything," he notes.<br /> <br /> Since the emphasis for HRFs will be on saving lives, medics will accompany search teams into disaster areas to find victims and provide immediate aid, Rees says. Medical teams will be equipped to provide a full range of care, even surgery.<br /> <br /> Search-and-extraction troops will be trained and equipped to enter collapsed buildings to rescue survivors. They will arrive with special gear for bracing and shoring up buckled walls and caved-in ceilings, and to excavate rubble to remove trapped victims.<br /> <br /> The decontamination units will deploy with large, shower-equipped decontamination tents and new decontamination trailers designed for air as well as ground transport.<br /> <br /> Compared to the 4,500-man CCMRF, an HRF is compact and nimble. A CCMRF "requires significant airlift to pick it up and move it to a disaster site," Rees says. HRFs are primarily designed to drive to disasters, but may fly if circumstances require. Disaster response in Alaska, for example, would require airlift.<br /> <br /> "Alaska's a long way away," said Washington Guard spokesman 1st Lt. Keith Kosik. The Washington HRF will cover Alaska as well as Idaho and Oregon, "so it's critical for the Washington HRF to be near an air mobility center," he says.<br /> <br /> The Washington unit will rely on the 141st Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane in eastern Washington, Kosik says. But it can also call on C-17 cargo planes based at McChord Air Force Base in the western part of the state.<br /> <br /> For states like Washington, which already has a CERFP, enlarging it into an HRF "is really about expanding the capability we already have," Kosik says. By adding command-and-control and security elements, the CERFP "goes from being able to respond to a modest CBRNE incident to being able to respond to a pretty serious one."<br /> <br /> HRFs will be "a major increase in the level of preparedness," Lawhorn says.<br /> <br /> "You'll find out," Rees says, "when they call one of these things out, they're gonna arrive and deliver."<br /> <br /> William Matthews is a freelance writer based in Springfield, Va., who specializes in military matters. He can be contacted at magazine@ngaus.org.<br /> <br /> "We have to be ready for anything."<br /> <br /> –Lt. Col. Charles Lawhorn<br /> <br /> Project manager, Homeland response forces National Guard Bureau<br /> <br /> "If you get there in 96 hours plus, you're in the mitigation phase. But if you can get there in six hours, you can save lives."<br /> <br /> –Col. Jerry Rees<br /> <br /> Director of Operations Ohio National Guard<br />

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