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Maryland Soldiers protect vital sites in Vigilant Guard 18

By Airman 1st Class Sarah McClanahan | 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard | May 9, 2018

SYKESVILLE, Md. - Soldiers from the Maryland Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry Regiment, responded to an emergency scenario Tuesday at Springfield Hospital in Sykesville, Maryland, as part of Exercise Vigilant Guard 18.

Maryland's Exercise VG 18 is one of the multiple exercises taking place over the first two weeks as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Level Exercise 2018 using a common scenario simulating a catastrophic regional hurricane making landfall.

This location's scenario involved a cell tower that sustained damages from the high winds of fictional Hurricane Cora. Civil unrest also took place in the exercise, in which civilians tampered with the tower.

"Our job is to secure the area and wait for the mechanic to move in," said Staff Sgt. James Slayman, a section leader assigned to D Company, 1-175th Infantry Regiment.

When Guard members arrived at the exercise location, they established three traffic control points (TCP) and maintained by D Company Sgt. Raul Martinez, an infantryman assigned to D Company, also noted that a quick reaction force was on standby in the event a TCP was overrun.

"TCPs are designed to slow the flow of traffic, so that we can gain control of the vehicle," said Slayman."We have teams out there to check IDs and turn vehicles around or escort them through the area - mission dependent. It's for people's safety and to keep essential personnel in."

During the scenario, infantry teams were dispatched to each TCP and responded to civilian role players participating who attempted to gain access to the area.

"Currently, there is no cell service in the area," said Slayman."Once the tower gets repaired, communication will be restored immediately."

The success of a mission like this is extremely important due to the extensive reliance on cell towers for communication. Most people, including first responders, rely heavily on phones to perform their duties.

However, the importance of a training exercise like this goes deeper than restoring communication, it also maintains the readiness of service members.

"Training like this occurs multiple times throughout the year and troops are continuously demonstrating their understanding of what's necessary to complete the mission," said Slayman.

The consistent readiness of guard members also provide reassurance to the communities they serve.

"The training we have, [when] put to use, will help the community ease their minds and know that we have control of the situation," said Spc. Jonathan Bridges, an infantryman assigned to the D Company. "We are always mission ready."

Vigilant Guard is an exercise that allows the Maryland Military Department, along with 42 federal, state, and local agencies a chance to collaborate and test interoperability as part of a national level exercise. The agencies are evaluated on preparing for and recovering from a catastrophic hurricane making landfall.

Nearly 2,000 service members, from within the FEMA Region III area, are participating in the Vigilant Guard exercises in Maryland and Virginia. International partners are present observing the exercise to take home lessons learned. The national level exercise is sponsored by the United States Northern Command in conjunction with the National Guard Bureau.