NEWS | July 29, 2016

Distinguished visitors observe Vigilant Guard 2016

By Spc. Avery Cunningham 172nd Public Affairs Detachment

Distinguished visitors from many different countries, states and territories visited Vermont to observe the ongoing events during Vigilant Guard 2016, July 29, 2016. Vigilant Guard is a national level emergency response exercise, sponsored by the National Guard and NORTHCOM, which provides National Guard units an opportunity to improve cooperation and relationships with regional civilian, military, and federal partners in preparation for emergencies and catastrophic events.

Representatives from Senegal and the former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia visited as part of Vermont's state partnership with their respective countries. Additionally, distinguished visitors arrived from Kenya and nine states and territories throughout the United States.

Soldiers with the 124th Regional Training Institute were assigned the role of Joint Visitors Bureau (JVB) for Vigilant Guard 2016. The JVB received the distinguished visitors and briefed them on the different sites they would be touring.

"We're accomplishing our mission," said Sgt. 1st Class Vernon M. Edmonds, assigned to the operations cell of the JVB. "At the end of the day, everything we do is to accomplish our mission, and we were able to get our distinguished visitors here, get them briefed and get them in the convoys."

The convoys split into two separate groups to give everyone the opportunity to see the training clearly. The groups had the chance to observe the State Emergency Operation Center, the State's emergency coordination center for emergency services during any major crisis, the Dual Status Command Operations Center, the command overseeing both active-duty and National Guard service members, Wide Area Destruction, multiple lanes that simulate various emergency situations after and during a disaster, and the Structural Collapse Venue Site, where a building has been crippled after a catastrophe.

"As an observer I have seen good interagency teamwork among the responders, players and incident management," said Pius Masai Mwachi, the Superintendent of Police, Kenya National Police Service, and a member of the Kenya National Disaster Management Unit (NDMU). "I'm learning a lot to take back home to use in our own system."

The Joint Visitors Bureau is focused on educating planners of future events on everything they need in order to effectively proceed with the planning portion of their Vigilant Guards or similar events.

"We can provide them very valuable insight to help them plan to execute these missions more effectively," said Edmonds. "They can see some of the challenges that we're having to deal with, and they can recognize that and plan for it at their location."

Vigilant Guard 2016 also shows others that Vermont, and the United States as a whole, is trained and ready to face any urgent situation. It's recognized as such, not only by the people in the U.S., but also by others outside the country.

"All the planners of this exercise, I support them and I thank them," said Mwachi. "It’s a very good exercise, not only for the U.S., but for the world, because the training here can be used in any part of the world."