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California to establish six homeland defense teams

By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell

ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Feb. 28, 2005) - California is taking homeland defense very seriously these days with plans to stand up six National Guard teams to help residents deal with weapons of mass destruction.

The teams will each have between 100 and 120 members of the Army and Air National Guard. They will be trained to support civil authorities by providing medical care for victims of weapons of mass destruction and decontaminating people who may have been exposed to chemical or biological or other deadly or hazardous agents.

These CERFP teams will also include members trained and equipped to locate and extract victims from the rubble of demolished buildings.

CERFP is short for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package.

The teams consist of existing assets within the Guard brought together to provide support to civil authorities during times of crisis.

California now has one of 12 CERFPs situated across the country that have been sanctioned by the National Guard Bureau and that have been trained and evaluated during the past year.

But Maj. Gen. Thomas Eres, the California National Guard's adjutant general, has ordered five more state teams to be trained and equipped at key locations in the vast state, according to retired Col. John Bernatz.

"The adjutant general looked at the capabilities that these teams bring to homeland defense here in California," Bernatz explained. "This is a huge state. It has the fifth largest economy in the world. It has many potential targets. One CERFP is simply not enough."

"We certainly applaud California's initiative in training additional personnel for response to a WMD attack," said Lt. Col. Thomas Hook, chief of the Homeland Defense Division at the National Guard Bureau.

Hook pointed out that the Guard Bureau has established a CERFP capability in 12 different states, including California, during the past year and that California was funding the additional capability it had developed.

The six teams, as well as the California Guard's two 22-member civil support teams, will be included in a Military Assistance for Civil Authorities Brigade, said Bernatz, the brigade's executive officer. The brigade can also draw on other Guard personnel and resources, such as security forces or quick reaction forces, as circumstances require, he added.

The CERFP authorized by the Guard Bureau is located in Los Alamitos and covers the Los Angeles region, Bernatz explained. It was trained and equipped last summer.

Three of the new teams have been trained and one of them has about three-quarters of its equipment, Bernatz said. They are based in San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno.

The locations for the two other teams have yet to be determined, and all of the teams will be equipped as funding becomes available, Bernatz said.

Each team will have about 120 people. It is hoped that each will be 25 percent over strength so that members can get some rest if they are pressed into service.

"It can get hot in those protective suits, and we want to make sure we have enough people to do the job," Bernatz said.

(Editor's note: Master Sgt. Bob Haskell writes for the National Guard Bureau.) OCPA Public Affairs Home OCPA Public Affairs Home


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