Story by: Chief Warrant Officer 2 Janet Schmelzer
Posted: June 25, 2015
OLNEY, Texas - When deployed for an emergency, the Texas State Guard is under the control of the local emergency management operations. So soldiers need to be trained on how to support local authorities in joint operations. For annual training this year the 4th Regiment joined with the City of Olney, Texas, to conduct joint exercises, June 12-14, 2015.
To conduct a successful joint training, planning began months in advance of the exercise. The 4th Regiment training and operations staff Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ray Spoth and Master Sgt. Richard Schilling and Regiment Commander Lt. Col. Lloyd Lietz met with local officials many times to work out the details. By the time the final decisions had been made, the 4th Regiment would be training with the City of Olney Emergency Management Operations, Olney Fire Department, Olney Police Department, Olney Hamilton Hospital, Olney EMS, Olney ISD, the Olney Enterprise, Olney Chamber of Commerce volunteers, local city and county officials, City of Graham Emergency Control Mobile Command Center, Wichita Falls Red Cross, and the Military Auxiliary Radio System
The scenarios for the exercise had several moving parts. The first day of the exercise had the 4th Regiment in Guthrie, Texas, for wildfires and then the regiment was ordered to Olney to prepare shelters for evacuees from Guthrie. The regiment tactical operations center was located in the Olney Fire Department. The Olney Emergency Management and the Red Cross had designated two locations for shelters at Olney High School gym and the Southside Baptist Church (which had just recently received the Red Cross designation as a shelter). With the assistance of the Wichita Falls Red Cross, shelters received cots and blankets and the regiment set up such areas as sleeping, eating, medical, children play, reception, and intake. The Red Cross and the Baptist men's organization provided meals to the soldiers.
Working in the shelter at the church, Pfc. Kendra Neuendorff, 3rd Battalion, 4th Regiment, who is attending her second annual training, commented that "I have a better idea of what I am supposed to do in a shelter and am learning more about the importance of the TXSG in a disaster."
On the second day, as shelter operations continued, Olney emergency management initiated its disaster training events which would involve the training of multiple agencies. The first emergency was a search and rescue of a hotel hit by a tornado where actors played roles of victims. The fire department conducted the search and EMS transported the victims to the local hospital which conducted training on how to handle mass casualties. The second emergency was a mock three-car crash which required the fire and police departments to extract victims who were then transported to the hospital.
The training also included 4th Regiment chaplains Capt. David Fish and 1st Lt. Todd Virnoche, who were called in to comfort a grieving parent of one of the mock crash victims. At both scenes the Texas State Guard set up a perimeter to keep onlookers at a safe distance from the disaster area.
On the final day the 4th Regiment was invited to attend church services in Olney. Afterwards, the regiment joined in a parade down the main street along with Olney police and fire departments, and Olney Emergency Management. At the final formation of the regiment in a moving gesture of appreciation, the Olney emergency officials shook hands with each soldier. Olney Emergency Manager Ronny Cowart expressed his appreciation for the capabilities of the TXSG. "I am very grateful to have this opportunity to work with the Texas State Guard and we are very happy that you came to Olney for your annual training." Lt. Col. Lloyd Lietz, commander, 4th Regiment, was "impressed with the level of coordination and cooperation of the Olney emergency services and local officials during our annual training here in Olney."
Training is a learning opportunity to practice skills needed in the event of an emergency. This joint annual training between Olney emergency responders and the 4th Regiment was therefore a success. Olney emergency responders strengthened their skills and identified where more training was needed. The 4th Regiment sharpened its ability to provide the support necessary to assist local authorities and the TXSG mission. And everyone learned much more about how to work together in joint operation emergencies. Once again, the 4th Regiment demonstrated the meaning of the TXSG motto "Texans Serving Texans."