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Patriotic Article

By Army Cpl. Maxiliano Garza

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Texas' Elite Response Team Trains for Mission-Readiness
(July 26, 2010)

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(July 22, 2010) -- The 6th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) represents Texas' support to civil authorities in mass decontamination, urban search and extraction, and medical support. Following the immediate response efforts of the 6th Civil Support Team, which arrives within an hour of an incident, the CERFP assumes expanded support roles during hours six through 72 after the initial call.
For two weeks in July, they trained, exercised, and certified in Volk Field, Wis., to achieve the Army standard of full certification and mission-readiness.

Composed of the 836th Engineer Company, the 436th Chemical Company, and the Small Portable Expeditionary Aeromedical Rapid Response, which includes three Air Force Medical Units, the 149th Fighter Wing, 136th Airlift Wing, and 147th Reconnaissance Wing, the 6th CERFP spent the first week battling new training environments as well as adverse weather conditions.

The 436th Chemical Company suits up for the day's training for the CREFP Evaluation on July 15, 2010.
The 436th Chemical Company suits up for the day's training for the CREFP Evaluation on July 15, 2010.

This bad weather halted training for a day on the 14th, but that didn't slow down the outfit, which began training early the next morning.
"Today we're real excited, we're going to be full force to ensure the troops maximize their training," said 1st Sgt. Paul Torres of the 436th Chemical Company from Laredo, Texas.
The 836th and the 436th have both recently come back from overseas deployments. Committed to excellence, the 6th CERFP regrouped immediately and started training for certification. In less than a year, they accomplished what normally takes years of training for other CERFP teams, according to Maj. Gen. Jose S. Mayorga, the Texas Adjutant General.

"I feel extremely confident that they're going to be able to respond to any event, any disaster," said Mayorga.

The certification in Wisconsin tested the CERFP's speed, skill sets and cooperation in a series of joint exercises simulating a real-life contamination emergency. The separate elements of the CERFP worked together to combat a single threat, coordinating their respective duties of extraction, decontamination, medical, and command and control.

"Those are the crucial seconds in an event for a CERFP that lives are wasted," said 1st Lt. Joseph Meller, executive officer of the 836th Engineer Company from Kingsville, Texas. "It's critical that we get down there and that we operate efficiently in order to save lives."

The 836th, responsible for search and extraction, trained for 12 hours a day in Wisconsin to become mission ready for certification. The 436th focused on their setup time each day to ensure they came under the 90-minute standard for establishing the decontamination line to begin receiving and treating casualties.

"We had an after action review to identify our shortcomings and our deficiencies," said Meller. "Basically, our weaknesses and where we can improve and strengthen those weaknesses, and refine them for our EXEVAL."

The SPEARR, as a trained medical asset, excelled at performing their medical duties in concert with the extraction and decontamination efforts of their sister units.

"This is the same as our wartime mission and our peacetime mission so we're trained up for this 100 percent of the time," said Air Force Master Sgt. Faith Elmore of the 147th Medical Group from San Antonio, Texas.

The SPEARR team has responded to disasters in the past, such as hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, aiding the casualties of the affected sites.

The certification process takes three full days of progressive simulations, starting with a slow-paced crawl through the motions. Observer/Controllers spend day one pacing the CERFP through a complete exercise, employing all their resources in response to a hazardous threat. The following day, the CERFP takes the lead in walking through the steps, under the direct supervision and guidance of the OCs. Finally, on day three, the official certification event occurs, during which the CERFP acts completely independently in response to a full-scale, mass casualty simulation.

All three components of the CERFP must achieve their respective objectives in order for the full asset to gain certification. With the pressure high and troops motivated to succeed, they engaged their scenario with expert precision and accuracy. On July 20, 2010, Texas' 6th CERFP became one of only 17 elements of its kind in the U.S. to successfully complete the Army standards for emergency response force packages.

"I feel much more at rest," said Meller, "knowing that these guys would be the guys that would pull out my family."

Article and photo by Army Cpl. Maxiliano Garza
100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Copyright 2010

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