DomPrep’s National Guard correspondent, Col. Jonathan B. (“Jon”) Dodson, USA (Ret.), joined LtGen. H. Steven Blum, USAR, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, on his flight from Andrews Air Force Base to Indiana to participate in the “Vigilant Guard” training exercises last month at the Mascatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC) at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. DPJ Managing Editor John F. Morton later interviewed Blum, and also discussed the exercise in depth with Dodson. Following are excerpts from the Morton/Dodson discussion.
Morton: So Jon, Exercise Vigilant Guard – that was a very significant exercise.
Dodson: Yes, it was, John. The Indiana National Guard hosted eleven days of exercises that tested the National Guard as the first military responder agency likely to be called to support the governor of Indiana [Mitch Daniels] and the state emergency management agency.
The exercises ran from May 7 to May 18 and were part of a larger DOD [Department of Defense], Joint Staff, and NorthCom exercise called Ardent Century. There were well over 3,000 people who participated in what was one of the nation’s largest homeland-defense training exercises, which involved a simulated nuclear explosion. In that simulation, a 10-kiloton nuclear device “exploded” in Indianapolis. The exercise scenario played out on a sprawling, 1,000-acre rural training area just outside of Indianapolis.
More than 2,000 National Guard troops and hundreds of state and federal emergency response agencies worked through the disaster scenario, which tested the National Guard as the first military responder agency on-site to support the governor and the state emergency management agency. The exercise also demonstrated the capabilities of the Indiana National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, the Joint Task Force-Indiana, and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) – the latter, as you know, is the process by which state governors reach out to other governors for more assistance when needed.
Among the specific National Guard homeland-defense units whose capabilities were tested were the National Guard Reaction Forces, the WMD (CSTs) [weapons of mass destruction (civil support teams)], and the CERF-P [CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive) enhanced response force-package] units. Vigilant Guard really reinforced the truth that all incidents are local.
Morton: How so?
Dodson: The first civilian responders on the scene were members of emergency management and response crews from a 700-person rotation out of the Indianapolis area. Among the first to respond to the incident were local and county authorities. Among the civilian first responders at the emergency extraction site were the Indianapolis Fire Department’s Engine Companies Numbers 1, 2, and 3, and Ladder Companies Numbers 1 and 2. Also, Shelbyville Fire Department Rescue Company 81 and Grass Company 51, the Moorestown Volunteer Fire Department, the Warren Township Fire Department, and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
Morton: That’s a huge number of units already. Any others?
Dodson: Well, the exercise also demonstrated the capabilities of the Indiana National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, the Joint Task Force-Indiana, and the EMAC [Emergency Management Assistance Compact] process through which governors reach out to other governors when more assistance is needed. Also included in the exercise were some unique National Guard disaster relief units equipped with an integrated satellite communication complex at the incident site.
And there’s more. Other specific National Guard units with various specialized homeland-defense capabilities included the National Guard Reaction Forces, Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams – the WMD-CSTs I mentioned earlier – and the CERF-P teams, which I also mentioned.
Morton: Tell us a little more about the participants themselves – the individual responders, and how they worked together.
Dodson: There were more than 2,000 National Guard personnel from Indiana and surrounding states – all under the command and control of the governor of Indiana through the EMAC process. These National Guard forces were operating and training alongside other first-responder participants, including responders from Indiana city, county, and state agencies, and from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] Region V, and the U.S. Department of Energy. So there were a lot of people involved. A huge number.
In addition, you had National Guard units, equipment, and personnel from the Indiana National Guard, the Illinois National Guard, the Ohio National Guard, and the National Guard Bureau. Also, the fire chief from Indianapolis, Chief James L. Greeson, and Police Chief Michael T. Spears; Marion County Sheriff Frank J. Anderson; Dr. [J.] Eric Dietz, executive director of Indiana’s Homeland Security Department; the Indiana Adjutant General – Major General R. Martin Umbarger. The most senior people participating were General Victor E. Renuart Jr. [USAF], the NorthCom commander, and both the governor of Indiana [Daniels] and the lieutenant governor, Becky Skillman.
Morton: That’s a crowd and a half already, and illustrates the importance of cooperation and coordination – and of setting up a workable chain of command. Any other individuals or organizations you want to mention?
Dodson: Let’s see, you had a lot of other coordinating organizations and agencies participating – the locals, the city of Indianapolis, county and state agencies. Outfits like the Indianapolis Metropolitan Emergency Communications Agency with its command, control, and communications element. Also, the National Urban Search and Rescue Response team from FEMA. The Indianapolis Police Department. EPA [the Environmental Protection Agency] was there. The Johnson County incident-management mobile command and communications center, Indianapolis Fire Services, and the Indiana state emergency management office.
Also, state agencies dispatched from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, including the Indiana State Police, [and] the Indiana Departments of Health, Transportation, and Natural Resources. And I said earlier that the Indiana National Guard responded to the incident to provide support.
In addition, when it became clear that local responders and the incident commander alone could not meet the demands of the situation, additional help was contributed from out-of-state National Guard units.
Morton: Huge. Massive. This was a tremendously large exercise – series of exercises.
Morton: What was the specific exercise scenario?
Dodson: Basically, this exercise tested the first of the fifteen national planning scenarios listed in the HSPD-8 [Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8] National Preparedness Goal.
Morton: The one with the improvised nuclear device?
Dodson: Right. More specifically, the planning scenario postulated a simulated 10-kiloton nuclear device detonating in the greater Indianapolis metropolitan area. That is what drove the deployment of National Guard disaster-assistance units, equipment, and personnel, who had to deal with casualties, infrastructure damage, evacuations, displaced persons, contamination – and lots of other things, of course.
Morton: Can you be more specific about what exactly the exercise tested?
Dodson: It tested the deployment to the incident site; integrated communications – including satellite communications with state and federal agencies; the search and rescue of victims from a rubbled building; the extraction and removal of victims from a burning building that had been damaged by conventional explosives; the decontamination of possible chemical and/or biological agents. Also, emergency medical services and medical-evacuation capabilities.
Morton: Tell us how the Guard handled the communications challenge, Jon – which always seems to be a huge problem.
Dodson: It was a no-notice exercise, but integrated satellite communications were established within 30 minutes of the notification by the National Guard’s Joint CONUS Communications Support Environment [JCCSE]. JCCSE includes the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability [JISCC], and the Joint Communications Control Center [JCCC].
The JCCSE links an incident site anywhere in the continental U.S. to state and national headquarters and includes all of the vital organizations and supporting net-centric IT capabilities required by the National Guard to support NorthCom, PaCom [the U.S. Pacific Command], StratCcm [the U.S. Strategic Command], and other homeland-defense and DSCA [Defense Support of Civil Authorities] mission partners by extending interagency trusted information sharing and collaboration capabilities to and from the national level, the 54 states and territories, and local incident sites.
The JISCC provides a dedicated unifying communications system that connects military and civilian agencies, allowing them to work together to save lives. The Kentucky JISCC Team 6 served as the Vigilant Guard JISCC.
Morton: That’s a lot of acronyms to remember. How does the JISCC work?
Dodson: The JISCC extends a working network, through a broadband satellite, to those without capabilities. It can use the satellite to tap into radio, telephone, and Internet networks anywhere in the world, and bring them to where they are needed. The JISCC was designated and implemented after Hurricane Katrinaentified the problems associated with various civilian/military integrated communications shortfalls – there was no dedicated system in place during Katrina.
Morton: Who, or what agencies, are involved with the JCCSE?
Dodson: The Joint CONUS Communications Support Environment [JCCSE] involves such organizational components as the National Guard Bureau and Joint Forces Headquarters-States, Joint Operations Centers, the Joint Communications Control Center, the National Guard Communications Element [NGCE], and other technology infrastructure components. The JCCSE also includes the Joint Information Exchange Environment, or JIEE – and, in short, encompasses all of the vital organizations and supporting net-centric IT capabilities required by the National Guard to support NorthCom and homeland defense and the DSCA mission partners. It does this by extending interagency trusted information sharing and collaboration capabilities, as I said earlier, to and from the national level, the 54 states and territories, and local incident sites.
Morton: You personally took some photos during various phases of the exercise, didn’t you?
Dodson: Yes, I did. A 10-kiloton nuclear blast at ground level will rubble most buildings within two kilometers of the blast site. It will destroy and damage many other buildings outside of that blast radius. If you look at the accompanying slide show that [DPJ Creative Director] Susan Collins put together, you will see some photos of “Rubble Site MUTC” with search and rescue people and Army National Guard engineers from the 1194th Engineer Company, Ohio Army National Guard personnel from Chillicothe, Ohio, and others – all of them looking for survivors, sorting through the rubbled concrete, evacuating victims, and so forth.
Morton: What units were doing the medical treatment and evacuation?
Dodson: The Army National Guard medics working on patients at Decontamination Site MUTC are from the 637th Chemical Company, which is attached to the CERF-P, Ohio Army National Guard, from Kettering, Ohio. You’ll also see photos of Army National Guard chemical decontamination specialists – from the Ohio Army National Guard, 155th Chemical Battalion (DECON), from Middleton, Ohio – helping victims at Decontamination Site MUTC. They are the ones wearing the yellow DECON suits.
Morton: Last question, Jon – does the National Guard have any future exercises like this on the horizon?
Dodson: As you will recall, in his interview with us General Blum talked a little about the MUTC exercise and indicated that the Guard has plans to exercise all 15 of the scenarios listed in HSPD-8.
Morton: That’s right. Let’s have a listen. Listen to full Audio Interview with Lt Gen H. Steven Blum