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Exercise Vigilant Guard

Battle Creek ANGB -- At 8:30 am Monday, June 14, 2010 members from the 110th Airlift Wing kicked off the 2010 Vigilant Guard Exercise with a tornado disaster striking down moments after the start. Participants in the exercise moved into their "shelter in place" locations throughout the base and then three boxcars spilled several 55 gallon containers with an "unknown" substance. Hazardous material or HAZMAT teams responded to begin decontaminating the scene.

"We recertify every year and do two exercises a year," said Senior Master Sgt. Rolando Garza with the HAZMAT teams, "it ensures our checklists are flawless; we are looking at the process and working with different units to see if we can stay on the same page." Sergeant Garza was overseeing the setup of the personnel decontaminating equipment. Some distance away, Mr. Jeff Waid, chief of operations for the base fire department was the incident commander. His role was to watch the decontamination equipment setup, and make sure it is done correctly but moving forward at a good pace.

"You cannot rush a hazmat setup," said Waid, "too many variables can change like the weather, and the wind, but at the same time we want to keep the team moving for the work rest cycle." Teams work for thirty minutes at a time in protective gear assessing the mock disaster. The rest work cycle is necessary as their equipment is heavy and protective chemical suits can get hot inside from the weather causing fatigue on the member.

The second day had significant activity with the 110th Medical Squadron, working in tents that were setup with the organization MI-TESA or Michigan Transportation Emergency Surge Assistance. The MI-TESA setup is a collection of special tents linked together with flooring, lights, and air conditioning for a total of 4,800 square feet to serve 50 patients with 26 medical personnel, according to Mr. Bob Hale, a logistics coordinator with MI-TESA.

"One of the biggest things we're working on is the military and civilian medical teams working together," said Bob Hale. "We are also testing our inventory of supplies that we have for the types of patients coming in for treatment."

Those military and civilian teams at Battle Creek included the 110th Airlift Wing; 5th District Medical Response Personnel and Assets; American Red Cross, Federal Center employees of Battle Creek, Mich., and the Joint Force Readiness Center. Twenty nine agencies total were located throughout the nation for the exercise.
Keeping communication together between all the agencies and their equipment was the job of the Joint Force Readiness Center. They were in charge of setting up a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability or JISCC at the Battle Creek site. This allows somebody on a cellular phone to talk with somebody on a VHF radio and is a communication bridge between first responders and other state, local and federal agencies. Providing global communication at incident sites is necessary when multiple agencies are at a location with different communication equipment.

"We provide services in voiceover, IP (internet protocol), DSN, and wireless and wire communication," said Sgt. 1st Class Phillip Lamaire. "It's our first time setting it up with all the players."

Role players were also present acting as victims to go into the hospital for treatments of a variety of injuries and flu like symptoms.

"A civilian company briefed us on the process in the tent; they gave us some acting lessons and lessons on the moulage [simulated injuries]," said Senior Master Sgt. James Bottorff, a role player with some leg injuries. "This is a lot of fun."

Sergeant Bottorff's condition was being recorded by medical personnel on a handheld electronic device that was used to record patient data and provides updates to anyone holding one of the devices.

"I like the system," said 2nd Lt. Broc Nichelson using one for his first time. "I need to get to know it more."

The exercise ended Thursday, June 17, 2010 with more than 400 people from 29 agencies both military and civilian working together.

"It was good integration with the agencies," said Lt. Col. Steven Jermeay, commander, 110th Medical Squadron. "We're used to doing this on our own but this went well. It was an amazing opportunity to work in the MI-TESA, a state of the art facility, and to establish a relationship with the 5th District Medical Response team."

The 5th District Medical Response Personnel and the 110th Medical Squadron, 110th Airlift Wing could work together in a real life situation according to Colonel Jermeay.

"It was an excellent training and exercise opportunity," said Colonel Jermeay.