By Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer
Missouri National Guard
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The Missouri National Guard's Vigilant Guard training exercise concluded Wednesday, after a five day period that was a response to a simulated earthquake that took place along the New Madrid fault line.
Vigilant Guard was a worst-case scenario natural disaster exercise that was a response to the last ten years in the state of Missouri, which saw flooding, ice storms and the Joplin tornado, said Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard.
"More than 4,600 Soldiers, Airmen and civilian partners participated in this exercise, which is one of the largest Missouri has ever organized," Danner said. "It was an outstanding opportunity for our force to test our processes and capabilities. The Missouri National Guard is the most seasoned, battle-tested force we've ever fielded, but we are always looking for ways to
improve ourselves so we can better serve the state."
Col. William Blaylock, the Director of Strategic Plan and Exercises for the Missouri National Guard, was also pleased with the results of the Vigilant Guard exercise.
"From a soldier-standpoint and even the civilians, we have had tremendous cooperation and participation," Blaylock said. "Missouri Guard soldiers and soldiers in general are trained to rise to the occasion when orders are not given, and everyone has done a great job in that sense."
In Columbia, Soldiers and Airmen worked alongside civilian agencies including Missouri Task Force 1, a FEMA urban search and rescue team, to practice skills including search and extraction and decontamination. The training was especially realistic because it included role players who acted as victims.
The teams in Columbia reported to the Guard's Joint Operations Center, or, JOC, in Jefferson City. The JOC is the central nerve hub of the Missouri National Guard. Danner recently expanded the JOC to give the Soldiers, Airmen and civilians working within a more effective working environment.
Vigilant Guard was the Guard's first opportunity to utilize the new facility, said Maj. Brett Cooper, chief of current operations in the Joint Operations Center.
"It was a wise decision to move from what we were using previously to where we are today," Cooper said. "It's really going to benefit the citizens, which is ultimately why we're here and why we're working together today."
Columbia saw a variety of staged missions, including search and rescue from destroyed buildings, decontamination from chemical waste outbreak, as well as medical treatment tents for civilian who were suffering from different injuries sustained due to the mock earthquake.
In Jefferson City, the 1438th Engineer Company completed a successful bridge building exercise along the river, which saw pieces of bridging be loaded into the water, and be pieced together.
The unit also completed a similar exercise the previous day at the Macon Training Site.
Similar missions also took place around the southeastern portion of the state, which is where the mock 6.7 magnitude earthquake took place.
Not only were Guardsmen working hard to support the simulated exercise, but members of the 735th Field Service Company Family Readiness Group worked to secure supplies for those participating in Vigilant Guard, coordinating donations from multiple vendors that were sold at the training exercises in Columbia, to help raise money for Missouri Guardsmen and their families.
"Our job as soldiers in the Missouri National Guard is to protect and defend this state, and this exercise is training for that mission," Blaylock said. "We work with civilians and other state agencies to ensure we are protecting and taking care of the citizens of the state of Missouri."