South Carolina National Guard participates in Vigilant Guard 17
By Sgt. Tashera Pravato April 3, 2017
GEORGIA -- U.S. Army National Guard Soldiers from South Carolina, Georgia and a multitude of other states came together throughout the state of Georgia March 27-31, 2017 to participate in Vigilant Guard 17.
Vigilant Guard 17 is a Joint Regional Training Exercise providing the South Carolina National Guard an opportunity to improve cooperation and relationships with local, state regional civilian, military and federal partners in preparation for emergencies and catastrophic events.
The 2017 scenario focused on responding to a category 3 hurricane that made landfall and moved through Georgia into Tennessee. Many organizations participated in the scenario to provide support capabilities to hypothetically affected areas in Georgia.
Early in the exercise, the South Carolina National Guard, 43rd Civil Support Team collaborated with Georgia National Guard Soldiers to react to a collapsed building scenario.
"In a natural disaster, the National Guard supports the state, so our team often partners with different civilian agencies for training purposes," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael Walker, 43rd CST survey team leader. "However, it is nice to be able to work with another Guard unit."
Another mission the two states partnered together on was water purification. Soldiers gathered at the Amerson Water Treatment Plant in Macon, Georgia to test both their equipment and knowledge.
"Our mission in this scenario is to partner with the South Carolina National Guard and the City of Macon to provide the area with clean drinking water," said U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Janae Law, Alpha Co., 348th Brigade Support Battalion, Georgia National Guard. "It mirrors what we would be called upon to do in the case of a real natural disaster."
During a natural disaster, protecting citizens is the National Guard's highest priority so one of the most important missions is the evacuation of stranded individuals. To refine those skills needed to perform that mission, South Carolina National Guard Soldiers from Detachment 1, Charlie Co., 2-238th General Support Aviation Battalion partnered with Georgia and Louisiana aviators to participate in an aerial evacuation exercise in the Savannah area.
"We don't often get to work with other states so this is a great opportunity to do so," said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Marty Moore, 2-238th GSAB maintenance test pilot. "Different states have their own way of doing things and during an emergency is not the time to try to figure things out."
Additionally, the South Carolina National Guard's 51st Military Police Battalion conducted training during Vigilant Guard, wrapping up with their culminating training event March 29 at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The skills and experience military police Soldiers bring to the table during an emergency often prove to be invaluable.
"I've been activated twice for emergency situations and with that we come into contact with random civilians who have been displaced so it is our job to keep calm so they and my team members remain safe," said U.S. Army Spc. Kyle Betterly, 132nd MP Company.
"During an emergency where we are supporting local law enforcement, the biggest thing for us is we're able to do the same things that local law enforcement does," said U.S. Army Maj. Erika Perry, 51st MP Battalion commander. "The police operation is a huge part of it and what they [civilian authorities] are looking for are units who have been through the training and through actual disasters themselves. We can absolutely say 'yes.'"
Vigilant Guard is conducted annually throughout the 54 states and territories so National Guard members get to coordinate with other Guard units and state agencies during training at least once a year. Connections created and skills sharpened during previous Vigilant Guard exercises were put into practice during South Carolina's historic flooding in 2015 as well as during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
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