NEWS | July 28, 2016

Vermont National Guard Soldiers provide site support

By Spc. Avery Cunningham 172nd Public Affairs Detachment

The 86th Brigade Special Troops Battalion provided support for Vigilant Guard 2016, a training exercise for National Guard units, Title 10 forces, state, federal and local agencies across Vermont for Vigilant Guard 2016, July 28. The unit acted as site supports for exercise lanes at Camp Johnson and Camp Ethan Allen Training Site to facilitate the training of personnel in a realistic environment.

"Our state and other states have learned very valuable lessons with Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Katrina," said Capt. Austin F. Barber, collapsed structure venue site officer-in-charge and commander of Bravo Company, 86th Brigade Special Troops Battalion. "Our emergency operations capabilities and our ability to interface with other organizations weren’t where they should be, so an opportunity like this provides a chance for military units, civilian entities, contractors, FEMA, those types of groups to work together, build a cohesive team and attack these sort of problems."

Vigilant Guard 2016 was designed to discover and address problems faced by Vermont and other states in previous disasters and training events.

"The Vigilant Guard exercise is critical to the state and the military here in Vermont, to evaluate our ability to respond to a natural disaster or any other kind of Defense Support of Civil Authorities event in the state," said Capt. Patrick Enriquez, site support officer-in-charge and commander of Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 86th Brigade Special Troops Battalion. "So flowing personnel and equipment to make sure that that training takes place effectively is important."

As site support officer-in-charge, Enriquez was in charge of ensuring that participants had what they needed to be fully operational during the exercise. 

"In a real Defense Support of Civil Authorities event there are incident commands that are established where the crisis' take place, and it's important that we as a military are logistically and operationally ready to enter those sites," said Enriquez. "This gives us a lot of practice, even if we're just a support element for the exercise, and helps us be ready to respond to any crisis in Vermont."

Enriquez's team provided Bravo Company the support they needed in order for them to conduct their mission effectively.

"Captain Enriquez and his site support team has supported us every step of the way with fuel, water, food, any kind of support, badging, flow, access control," said Barber. "All those types of support tasks that, without them, we couldn't pull this off."

Bravo Company, in turn, provides site support for the training participants at the collapsed structure venue.

"Our role in site support is the facilitation of this venue, so we provide lane safeties; we have a series of medics that provide that safety," said Barber "We also have officers-in-charge, and non-commissioned officers-in-charge of the lanes, to make sure that they train to the task, tradition, and standards that we lay out."

That role includes setting up the site for participants to conduct the lanes.

"We prepared the site with mannequins and other role-players to simulate a natural disaster area," said Barber. "We're trying to facilitate a smooth series of lanes and provide the best quality training opportunity for these visiting units."

The Vermont National Guard hosts multiple training sites for visiting organizations.

"We have a lot of units coming from other states," said Barber. "We have civilian agencies, state agencies, and a variety of other organizations that we don’t typically get the opportunity to work with, so its important that we put Vermont's best foot forward, put the best possible training out so they want to come back and work with us, build their confidence and are ready in the event that a natural disaster does strike," said Barber.

Working as a single response force comprised out of many different organizations presents challenges with integrating the different equipment, communications and doctrines, said Enriquez. Vigilant Guard 2016 offers a great opportunity to iron those issues out.

"We need to get together, determine what tasks need to be accomplished, and ultimately, we need to get the mission done, so it takes creativity, flexibility and adaptability in our leaders and our Soldiers," said Barber.