By Jennifer Archdekin
Missouri Army National Guard
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (11/9/12) – The Missouri National Guard has been conducting a national-level earthquake exercise, known as Vigilant Guard, under the scenario that a massive quake struck the New Madrid fault line.
Nearly 200 Puerto Rico Guardsmen landed at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base on Sunday in St. Joseph to perform search and rescue missions near Columbia for the drill.
The exercise not only increased training for those involved, but added an element of realism to the event. The unit's arrival in St. Joseph allowed the
1-129th Field Artillery, headquartered in Maryville, to operate a joint reception, staging, onward movement and integration site, which is used to
process out-of-state troops and incorporate them into the overall mission.
"This trains us to be able to respond to any kind of natural disaster, to get the communication and the process up to speed, so that way we can integrate the full force coming in for the mission at hand," said Staff Sgt. Kermit
Simmerman of the 129th Field Artillery.
Simmerman said his unit wanted to make sure they are tracking all personnel coming in, along with the type and amount of equipment they are bringing, so Missouri can best utilize everyone.
"It keeps us fresh on those skills, so that way when it does happen … we're prepared to be able to receive those units as they come in, so we can make the best use of the time that we have and the resources that the other states are providing to use," said Maj. James Knickerbocker, executive officer with the 129th Field Artillery.
The overall earthquake training has been a joint effort, which was made evident as both Missouri Guard Soldiers and Airmen served as ambassadors to the Army and Air Guard troops from Puerto Rico.
"It's all about being joint from now on," said Lt. Col. Alfredo Pagan, commander of Company C, 1st of the 65th Infantry CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package, Puerto Rico National Guard. "It's not the Army by itself, it's not the Air Guard by itself, it's joint."
Pagan added that during Vigilant Guard his troops' missions, with regard to search and rescue, compliment their state and federal missions
"We're doing something for the country and for cities," said Pagan. "It's something that motivates my guys to do something more than just being an Airman or a Guardsman. I've got guys that are trained and equipped to do search and extraction, I've got guys trained to do recon at the site, plus, Ialso have a unit, a command and control unit, within the unit."
The exercise, which began Saturday, Nov. 3, operates under the knowledge that public utilities have been disrupted and there is wide-spread infrastructure damage across the entire region due to the earthquake. National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, along with their civilian and federal partners, have been responding to the notional state-wide natural disaster.