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Michigan National disaster response team prepares for "first muster"

March 14, 2014 --

When natural and man-made disasters overwhelm first responder capabilities, the Michigan National Guard's Disaster Assistance Response Team can help. Organized by Lt. Col. Edward Schmidt of the 110th Airlift Wing located at the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base and supported by members of the 110th Airlift Wing Office of Emergency Management (and others), the DART mission is to help save lives, safeguard public health and security, and mitigate property and environmental damage to Michigan's citizens and resources.

Guidance from Michigan National Guard Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais charged the DART with creating a blended pool of skills, uniforms and backgrounds who can quickly and efficiently deliver services throughout the state. "Make the team joint. Don't promise what you can't deliver, and spread the team across the state," were his specific instructions.

The DART began training in March with almost 100 volunteers from the 110th Airlift Wing and Joint Forces Headquarters in Lansing. Representatives from Consumers Power, the BCANGB chaplain's office, Psychological Health Associates, and other professionals, provided physical and psychological training in a variety of disaster scenario situations.

DART volunteers learned the proper procedure for securing downed power lines, handling hazardous materials, basic first aid and emotional support techniques in a classroom setting then went outside to practice safe chain-saw operations and debris-clearing processes under the supervision of BCANGB civil engineers. The group also observed an operational Joint Incident Site Communications Capability system which provides mobile communications capabilities (phone, Internet, satellite) when traditional network services are inoperable.

Army Brig. Gen. Phillip Owens, spoke with the training team about their importance during disaster recovery and emergency response in Michigan.

"In a disaster, you guys will be where the rubber meets the road," said Owens who serves as the assistant adjutant general for Michigan National Guard Joint Operations. With the initial training completed, the team is preparing for two upcoming exercises where their status will be assessed by the base commander, Col. Ronald Wilson. Wilson will then determine if the team is ready to support the state in the event of a disaster. One requirement for all team members is an individual task. All DART members must pass a number of Federal Emergency Management Agency online training modules before they can be on the team and officially activated. In the event of an emergency, DART activation will be triggered by an order from the governor of Michigan to the MING adjutant general. The team will work in close collaboration with MING headquarters components to answer the call of duty when disaster strikes.