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NEWS | March 31, 2014

Vigilant Guard training brings Alaska National Guard together with local responders

By Spc. Kimberly Chouinard 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - The Alaska National Guard Civil Support Team and the Anchorage Fire Department conducted a hazardous materials drill involving an overturned rail car tanker leaking hazardous material at the fire department training center rubble pile on March 27, the 50th anniversary of the devastating "Good Friday" earthquake.

On the anniversary, members of the civil support team and fire department participated in Vigilant Guard 14, an exercise conducted to ensure the state of Alaska and the nation are prepared and ready to respond to catastrophes.

With the population much larger 50 years after the earthquake more supplies are being transported by railroads to the state of Alaska.

"Today this would be a very realistic scenario for us," said 1st Lt. Joseph Radke, Alaska National Guard, 103rd Civil Support Team Officer. "With the way we move hazardous material over the states rail lines within the state Alaska both coming up from the lower 48 through Canada and then moving further north."

With natural events being extremely unpredictable, the National Guard trains with local responders to always be ready in providing support the state will need.

"Learning to work together and learning each others capabilities is important so if this ever happened in the real world we would know what each other has to offer," said Staff Sgt. Jonathon Luis, 103rd CST.

Vigilant Guard is being conducted 25 March through 2 April in the communities of Anchorage, Matanuska Valley, Valdez, Fairbanks, Cordova and Kodiak.

"Having that friendly handshake and knowing that friendly face when we are boots on the ground makes a big difference," said Radke. "Being able to come in on a first name basis with our local responders and them seeing as us not so much as a uniform but as a person, and as a neighbor makes this type of training invaluable to us."