CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. – The Indiana National Guard Counterdrug Task Force and special agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration Chicago Field Division teamed up for a five day tactical exercise at Camp Atterbury Aug. 12-16.
The Indiana National Guard prioritizes building relationships with local, state and national agencies. Guard members and the Chicago division have trained together for more than 20 years.
"The reality is that the personnel here from the National Guard have expertise in areas that we don't have expertise in,'' said Keith Billiot, the supervisory special agent in charge. "We're here so that they can train us on things such as land navigation, rappelling and tactical medicine."
Billiot also said even though his team is somewhat familiar with these tasks, the environment at Camp Atterbury allowed for a realistic application throughout the training scenarios.
"When we deploy for hurricanes and earthquakes or whatever the instance is, many times we're not in cities; we're out in rural areas," said Billiot. "Last year, three of us were going through a forest with no landmarks. We have to know how to get from one point to another and get back safely; that's what this training is all about."
This five-day course challenged each DEA agent to conduct a number of lifesaving skills in a realistic environment. The training included casualty recovery, rapelling, combat water survival and more.
"The agents have done similar training with different entities before, but not as full spectrum as this," said Sgt. 1st Class Frank Vergara, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the special mission group leading the training.
Vergara also explained that this exercise brought an opportunity for the Guard members to train with civilian agencies they will work with during future drug eradication, drug investigations and disaster response.
"The days are long, but the training is worth it," said Spc. Karl Moffett, a member of the counter drug special missions group training section. "The skills we are teaching are practical but perishable, and without constant practice, you can lose these skills."
The final day of training culminated with a scenario-based search and rescue mission comprised of helicopter insertion, tactical ground movement, and search and rescue missions.
"The reason we're here this year is because of the training we got the preceding year and training we got the year before that," said Billiot about the multi-agency training. "It's just been a wonderful relationship; we know that we can count on this team to provide training on skill sets that we need, So, we're going to continue to keep coming back.