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PERRY, Ga. - Since the Army's inception, Soldiers have spent their days training for the unimaginable. Leveraging combat experiences and prescribed doctrine, training has evolved over the last 238 years, incorporating various tactics based on mission, enemy and terrain.
Training for a threat on American soil is no different.
Soldiers from 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team have trained for months in advance of the brigade's newest mission as a regionally aligned force, under the immediate command of U.S. Army North in San Antonio, Texas.
The brigade assumed the yearlong mission March 1, and has since been completing a number of emergency deployment readiness exercises from company to brigade-level. Ultimately, the brigade is able to support state and federal response efforts by providing a quick reaction force capable of conducting civil support operations, if called upon.
In late July, Soldiers were alerted for a short-notice EDRE as part of Scarlet Response 2014. The exercise was unlike any they had conducted before.
In the exercise scenario, 10-kiloton bomb exploded in a populated American city. Buildings were destroyed. Food and water supplies were contaminated and scarce. Citizens were injured.
Soldiers from B Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, were the first called to support relief efforts within the city. Within 24 hours, they were en route to the Guardian Centers in Perry, Georgia, a training facility designed to offer high-scale disaster response training to state and federal agencies.
There, they were met by 200 Marines and Sailors with the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, assigned to the II Marine Expeditionary Force. The Soldiers' mission was to pull security throughout the city, which allowed specially trained Marines and Sailors to enter buildings and conduct various operations in a chemical environment.
When directed, the CBIRF forward-deploys or responds with minimal warning to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive threat or event in order to assist local state or federal agencies.
The CBIRF also assists with consequence management operations, which provide command and control capabilities, agent detection and identification, search, rescue and decontamination and emergency medical care for contaminated personnel.
Scarlet Response was an exercise intended to test the ability of the CBIRF to deploy, employ and sustain specialized military response forces upon the request of civilian authorities in order to save lives and relieve human suffering following a catastrophic CBRNE incident, said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Steve Redifer, the commanding officer of the specialized unit located in Indian Head, Maryland.
For the Soldiers, it provided a unique opportunity to work with other members of the armed forces, said Maj. Jason Atkinson, the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team operations officer in charge.
On the ground, Soldiers faced an unknown chemical environment and had to execute each task in Mission-Oriented Protective Posture Level 4. MOPP Level 4 includes wearing the chemical overgarment, hood and mask, footwear covers, gloves and carrying field gear such as M8/M9 paper, nerve agent antidotes and decontamination kits.
Hydration and focus were key as the Georgia sun and humidity amounted to a nearly 100-degree heat index.
"The Soldiers are conducting joint-clearing operations with the Marine Corps' chemical response team, providing critical site security and (rendering) medical assistance, as needed," said Atkinson, of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Outside the exercise, Scarlet Response provided Sledgehammer Soldiers with a one-of-a-kind experience for many reasons.
"We (3rd Armored Brigade) are able to conduct (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives) training in a unique environment. Additionally," Atkinson said, "this is the first time the Soldier's have integrated with a sister service and the first time they have participated in a CBRNE event on this scale."
Nearly 24 hours into the event, the Soldiers of 1st Bn., 10th FA, conducted a handover with Soldiers in B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, who continued to support the CBIRF.
During one scenario, a citizen had fallen into an elevator shaft and was unable to climb out. As the Marines and Sailors prepared to head to the building where the elevator was located, a team of Soldiers donned their chemical gear and accompanied them. Once inside, the Soldiers were asked to help with extracting the injured civilian.
"I've done CBRNE training before, but nothing as intense as having to rig rappel lines and pull a casualty up," said Sgt. Keigley Prent, a team leader in B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regt. "After we got the guy out of the elevator shaft, we immediately responded to another incident where we had to help a person pinned under a trailer."
As a leader, Prent said the training was invaluable for many reasons. The Soldiers learned more about recovery operations in a chemical environment, techniques for operating in an environment with restricted breathing and how to identify heat casualties, which Prent said was most beneficial.
"Overall, it was very effective and informative training despite how (difficult) it was to execute in full chemical gear," said Prent, of Dahlonega, Georgia.
In such a dangerous environment, attention to detail in both the mission and the well-being of personnel are important.
"The 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers did a fantastic job or cordoning the sensitive environment," said Marine Corps Capt. Adam J. Birchenough, the reaction force company commander and Homer, New York, native. "They took the initiative to not just secure the buildings, but once secured, (helped) to bring people out of those buildings and (supplemented) the forces we already had on ground.
"They were huge force multiplier for this exercise," he said.
The brigade's Soldiers will continue to train for potential national disaster response missions as the regionally aligned force under U.S. Army North and U.S. Northern Command. The brigade supports ARNORTH and USNORTHCOM and efforts to protect and assist the American people and maintain national security by deploying quick reaction forces and rapid reaction forces in order to save lives, prevent human suffering, and mitigate great property damage.
The Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Relief Act allow the federal government to assist state and local government in alleviating undue suffering and damage as a result of disasters. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency are the primary agencies responsible for coordinating and providing federal assistance to state, local and tribal authorities in response to the consequences of natural or man-made disasters or emergencies, including terrorist attacks within the domestic incident management area of operations. Department of Defense response and support must be approved by the president of the United States or secretary of defense.