NEWS | July 27, 2016

Medical countermeasures training during Vigilant Guard 2016

By Staff Sgt. Ashley Hayes 172nd Public Affairs Detachment

Members of the Vermont National Guard, regional civilian and federal partners came together for Vigilant Guard 2016 training at the 158th Fighter Wing, Burlington International Airport, South Burlington, Vt., July 27, 2016. Vigilant Guard 2016 is a national level emergency response exercise sponsored by the National Guard and NORTHCOM. The Medical Counter Measures (MCM) exercise, one small portion of Vigilant Guard 2016, was a way to practice response skills to a health epidemic in the state.

The MCM exercise demonstrated how the Vermont Army and Air National Guards help to support the Vermont Department of Health to distribute the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), said Col. Frank Harder, commander of the 158 commission support group, assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing. The SNS refers to the medical supplies provided by the Center for Disease Control that would be distributed throughout the state during a real emergency.

Preparation for Vigilant Guard 2016 began months in advance. Second Lieutenant Candice Mcclure, logistics readiness officer assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing, discussed the preparation she was a part of for this exercise and what the Guard’s role is in assisting the Vermont Department of Health.

“We’ve been working on this for about six months,” said Mcclure. “Our role is to support the state and federal government and get the product out from a secure location to designated sites”

Previous training has been focused on planning and preparation. Conducting this exercise allows for more hands-on training, as well as bringing together military, civilian and federal agencies to test how they work as a team.

“We want to exercise the plan that the Department of Health and the Vermont National Guard has worked hard to come up with,” said Harder. “To actually put it into practice, we get to see where there may be gaps in the plan and where we can improve.”

Each training exercise within Vigilant Guard 2016 serves a similar purpose, to test the state and National Guard response to a state emergency and improve and learn through the training. Harder said the plan is to go through the exercises and see where improvements can be made.

The MCM is a small portion of Vigilant Guard, said Mcclure. Various different exercises are also happening to test the emergency strategies that have been put in place and evaluate the response. The goal is to be successful, assist as many people as possible, and provide support to state partnerships.

“We’re very proud of our troops,” said Mcclure. “They’re working very hard. They’re doing a great job problem solving and moving with things as the plan changes.”
Practicing and training for emergency events is how improvements are made, but hands-on training creates a more realistic learning environment. Harder explained the importance of Vigilant Guard Training for the citizens of Vermont.

“To practice what you do, day in and day out, it’s going to make you even better on game day,” said Harder. “That’s what this is, to make us better prepared so that when the citizens of Vermont need us that we’re ready to go.”