INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana National Guard's 19th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package practiced search-and-extraction measures in Alaska as part of Arctic Eagle 2020, which brought together Guard units from 15 states to work with local, state and national agencies for several weeks.
"In this environment, the training really got our team talking and thinking about different ways to approach our current mission," said Sgt. Cory Seifer, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the reconnaissance squad with the 19th CERFP. "We don't always think about what would happen if we were called to support disasters in arctic conditions, and now we have that realistic experience to take back to our unit."
In 2004, Congress authorized the activation of 12 National Guard CERFPs. Congress increased the authorization to 17 strategically located CERFPs throughout the United States. All 17 align with corresponding Federal Emergency Management Agency regions.
"We are part of FEMA Region V, so it is not unrealistic that we would need to operate in this type of environment," said Sgt. Sara McMahon, the noncommissioned officer in charge of breach and break with the 19th CERFP. "This exercise was a way for us to learn more about our equipment capabilities, specifically what would and wouldn't work in constant below freezing temperatures."
FEMA Region V serves Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The CERFP assists civil authorities during domestic incidents, searching collapsed buildings and structures, rescuing trapped victims, performing medical triage and mass decontamination.
Testing and validation of equipment is crucial to the success of domestic and foreign National Guard missions. To ensure collaboration and realistic training, the exercise forced participants to break out of their original teams and conduct missions with new members.
"Our mission here was to conduct search-and-extraction procedures," said Cpl. Shelbylynn Hulse, the bravo team leader assigned to the 19th CERFP. "We were able to do that and more. My favorite part was being exposed to the working dogs. Learning how to act around them and complete our mission was fun."
The teams included FEMA Task Force One from Utah, active-duty Marines and National Guard members. During a real disaster, the CERFP supports the local incident commander and emergency first responders.
Exercise Arctic Eagle 2020 began Feb. 20 and ends March 7.