NEWS | July 28, 2016

High-intensity training during vigilant guard 2016

By Staff. Sgt. Ashley Hayes 172nd Public Affairs Detachment

When training to respond to an emergency, high intensity hands-on training is imperative to improve skills. A simulated building collapse surrounded by broken concrete included casualty actors, crushed and overturned vehicles, 185-pound mannequins with realistic-like injuries, and various other placed obstacles create an intense learning environment at Camp Johnson, Colchester, Vt, July 28, 2016. This training was planned not only for the Vermont National Guard, but civilian entities and military units from various states. This scenario is just one of many planned to take place during Vigilant Guard 2016.

Vigilant Guard is a national level emergency response exercise sponsored by the National Guard and NORTHCOM, providing National Guard units an opportunity to improve cooperation and relationships with regional civilian, military, and federal partners in preparation for emergencies and catastrophic events. This exercise took over two years to prepare for due to the amount of personnel involved in the training. Second Lt. Dalton Peck, training site officer in charge, assigned to 131st Engineer Company, Vermont National Guard, said more than 100 personnel are expected to go through the collapsed building exercise.

Each time a different unit goes through the training, the scenario can change based on their capabilities. This could include having to jackhammer through concrete for search and rescue, treat medical injuries, provide reconnaissance, or rescue simulated casualties. Different scenarios allow the identification of the strengths and weaknesses of each unit that participates in the training.

“Depending on which units come through, the whole objective is to see where they’re at and what they’re capable of,” said Peck. “Depending on the unit, they can do lanes different ways, change scenarios and make it easier or harder.”

Safety was very important during this exercise. Multiple civilian and military safety personnel were present, with a primary job of ensuring the training is effective, but safe at the same time. Civilians with Fire and Rescue Concepts, a company contracted with the Department of Defense, were present to ensure the training was conducted safely.

First Lt. Anne Turner, officer in charge of the exercise, also from the 131st Engineering Company, said training like this could help to show how the National Guard communicates and how the military training compares to civilian responses to emergencies. She described how she hopes this training will help bring the military and civilian partnerships closer.

“I hope this facilitates the guard and the civilian sector working together with the state, in cases like Winter Storm Marcus or Hurricane Irene. I’m hoping that this sort of exercise means that we will be better prepared in the case that some other disaster happens.”

Turner said, not only does this training bring the military and civilian emergency responders together, but also creates a positive presence in the community, by bringing in actors from the community to participate in the training. Turner also emphasized the importance of how valuable hands-on training is.

“It’s one thing to do a rock drill on the army floor, but to come out here and actually clamor around in the rubble pile and see how unsteady it is under your feet, have to hear the noise of the jackhammer, the people yelling and hollering that they’re in trouble and injured adds an element of realism that is important,” said Turner.

There will be time set aside after training to evaluate how the training went and where improvements can be made. Peck said he’s excited to see how the training turns out and how each unit decides to work through the scenarios.