By Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer
Missouri National Guard
COLUMBIA, Mo. (11/6/12) - The Vigilant Guard training exercise, which simulates an earthquake on the New Madrid Seismic Zone, is well underway.
Over the weekend, Guard members and first responders trained around the clock at the Boone County Fire Protection District training complex.
Deputy Chief Randy White, of the Columbia Fire Department, who served as the incident commander during a training mission, said working together is the key to a successful response.
"In any real-world event that reaches that magnitude, it would be important for us all to work together effectively," White said. "This exercise is a way to bring all the aspects and issues together in a training environment, versus when that real life emergency occurs."
The training included Missouri National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from the 835th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, of Jefferson City, the 735th Quartermaster Field Service Company, of DeSoto, the 1140th Military Police Company, of Mexico, the 7th Civil Support Team, of Jefferson City, and the 139th Medical Group, of St. Joseph. Missouri Task Force-1, of FEMA urban search and rescue task force based in Boone County, as well as the Iowa National Guard's 18th Air Refueling Wing and Iowa and Kansas's Civil Support teams also participated.
One part of the simulation involved a collapsed apartment building, where a mannequin that was being treated as an injured person was trapped in the bottom of an elevator shaft.
The group had to maneuver into the building, down into the elevator shaft, and secure the mannequin into a lift, said Missouri Army National Guard Sgt.
Zach Yoho, a team leader with the 735th Force Provider Company.
Other team members hoisted the mannequin up to the fourth floor of the building, then lowered the litter out of a window and safely onto the ground.
Airmen from the Missouri Air National Guard are also participating in the exercise.
Staff Sgt. Mary Millman, an aerospace medical technician with the 139th Airlift Wing, took part in the exercise and was responsible for securing the victim. She rappelled out a fourth-floor window and ensured the mannequin's safety as it was lowered to the ground.
The 139th Airlift Wing has more than 50 Airmen supporting the Vigilant Guard training exercise.
"It was an interesting mission, but really different - not something you do every day," Millman said.
At the same time of the search and rescue mission, Soldiers from the 1140th Military Police Company were busy taking care of victims who had been exposed to chemical waste. They worked at a separate decontamination tent that was also a part of the training exercise.
The victims taking part in Vigilant Guard are paid civilians who are on site and participating in all phases of the exercise.
Many of them entered the decontamination tent and went through imitated stages of cleaning, scrubbing, hosing off and containment of any harmful waste.
Master Sgt. Karla Lewis, a medical materiel technician for the 139th, said her unit has been giving initial medical attention to earthquake victims as a part of the exercise.
"It's a good learning experience because this is the first time we've worked with the civilian personnel," she said, adding that it was also beneficial to practice with the Army National Guard. "We would do the same exact thing in a real-world situation."
Between annual training missions and exercises like Vigilant Guard, Missouri Guardsmen train constantly for both their state and federal missions.
Vigilant Guard is a six-day exercise that began Saturday morning with the simulated earthquake. It is scheduled to end Thursday.