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Army North's largest exercise to train DOD's newest response forces

June 28, 2011

By Patti Bielling

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (June 28, 2011) -- U.S. Army North’s largest disaster response exercise is one step closer to reality as the final Vibrant Response 12 and 12A planning conference wrapped up June 23 at Camp Atterbury, Ind.

The conference was the last chance for exercise planners to assemble as they put the finishing touches on the event, scheduled for Aug. 16-28 at various venues in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky.

The exercise will be the fourth field training event in the Vibrant Response series, which trains federal military forces on their role in supporting civilian consequence managers in responding to catastrophic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear " or CBRN " incidents.

The event will be the first confirmation exercise for the 5,200-person Defense CBRN Response Force. They are among the more than 7,000 active and reserve-component Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians who will train in the exercise.

The DCRF replaces the 4,500-person CBRN Consequence Management Response Force and is designed to bring even more life-saving capability to an incident faster.

Each iteration of the exercise presents new and more complex challenges for the training units, said Paul Condon, Army North’s lead Vibrant Response exercise planner.

“We have forged a strong training partnership with the Indiana National Guard and the people who run Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex,” Condon said. “We’ve worked with them to add several new venues at both Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex in order to accommodate the larger DCRF.”

The exercise also provides excellent training opportunities for other DOD units and external agencies involved in disaster response, Condon said.

These organizations include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army’s 9th Area Medical Laboratory, the Fort Knox Fire Department, and National Guard elements from Indiana, California, West Virginia, Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota.

Even Verizon Wireless will participate, said Clark Wigley, Army North joint exercise planner. The wireless company often deploys cell phone towers and other equipment into disaster areas to enable emergency communications.

“Verizon will be using Vibrant Response to train their crews to repair equipment in a contaminated environment,” Wigley said. “They also are providing some of their mock equipment for the military to transport.”

The exercise will be the first field training exercise for the Command and Control CBRN Response Element A. The C2CRE-A mission is similar to that of the DCRF, but the 1,500-person command and control element is designed to receive federal military response forces upon activation.

The DCRF and C2CRE were created as part of DOD’s transformation of the nation’s tiered CBRN response enterprise. The units will assume their mission Oct. 1 as federal military initial CBRN response forces designed to provide search and rescue, decontamination, medical, aviation, communications and logistical support.

(Patti Bielling serves with Army North Public Affairs.)

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