Airmen of the 158th Fighter Wing recently participated in Quick Reaction Force (QRF) training to prepare for state domestic aid response. The Vermont National Guard trains annually to maintain competency in handling public disturbances and natural disasters.
“We support the joint leadership and ultimately the Governor of Vermont in disaster response or civil disturbances. Depending on the scenario, we partner with Vermont’s law enforcement agencies; . . . to provide the best service we can to the citizens of Vermont,” noted Capt. Justin Schwartz, 158th Fighter Wing QRF Officer in Charge and Aircraft Maintenance Operations Officer.
The training was divided into two segments over the course of a few days. Trained military instructors taught the first portion, conducted at Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho, Vermont, where Airmen practiced operating the LMTVs (Light Medium Tactical Vehicles) and Humvees. The following day, the same group of Airmen participated in crowd and riot control exercises at the 158th Fighter Wing in South Burlington, Vermont. For this training, the Security Forces personnel provided classroom instruction as well as hands-on activities with non-lethal weapons.
QRF Airmen train for scenarios such as clearing roads, delivering supplies to those in need and crowd control. For these efforts to be effective, Airmen have developed partnerships with a several external agencies, such as the CDC (Center of Disease Control) as well as state and local law enforcement.
“We have members [from Security Forces] that are team leaders, or NCOICs [non-commissioned officers in command] that provide the instructional aspects; we also have members that are part of the team that are involved in the training,” mentioned Tech. Sgt. Roy Thompson, 158th Security Forces personnel about their involvement on QRF.
Most Airmen of the QRF team have experience in real world events.
“A year ago, Swanton had some pretty bad flooding because of an ice jam during the spring thaw. [The] LMTVs are the only high-water vehicles the state had at its disposal. So, they had swift water rescue crews there, but they didn’t have the appropriate vehicles to get into certain areas to get to people that were stranded; so that’s the type of thing we’d respond to,” remarked 1st Lt. Michael Wardwell, 158th Fighter Wing Budget Officer and a QRF member.
Members of the QRF team report when they are needed on little notice, a requirement of assignment to the extra responsibility they hold.
“We have the ability to respond to a disaster or an event within two hours within notification of activation,” noted Schwartz.
Since most the 158th Fighter Wing’s QRF Airmen are traditional guardsmen, their training is important because they do not drive the vehicles designated for QRF functions on a regular basis.
“[The training] is giving them the opportunity to become familiar [with the Humvee’s and LMTV’s] because they are going to be our means to get out into the community when events do happen,” said Master Sgt. Ryan Patnaude, QRF member and Munitions Controller with the 158th Fighter Wing.
During emergencies, such as Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, there are a lot of unknown factors and both State and civilian agencies can use additional support. The Vermont National Guard QRF can support these entities with additional manpower and resources for the State of Vermont.
“It’s an excellent opportunity for us to do a mock [simulated], real world exercise, combining all these agencies, and all the logistics to make sure it was a seamless process,” remarked Patnaude.