Story by: Spc. Stefan Wray, 2nd Regiment PAO
Posted On: January 30, 2016
STEPHENVILLE, Texas – Seventy-seven officers, warrant officers and enlisted soldiers from the Army Command Component’s 2nd Regiment traveled to north Texas to participate in a joint Texas State Guard exercise and engage in additional emergency response training at locations based out of Tarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas, January 21-24, 2016.
Over a four-day period, the 2nd Regiment, under the command of Col. Robert Woodmansee, joined with the 4th and 19th regiments as well as elements from the Texas State Guard 3rd Battalion, Texas Medical Brigade, and 3rd Battalion Texas Maritime Regiment to train for possible natural or manmade disasters at various locations in Erath County, Texas.
The exercises around Erath County included a simulated hurricane disaster that spawned several tornadoes. This disaster scenario provided soldiers with training experience in mass care sheltering and evacuations.
“This training allows the 2nd Regiment to not only establish shelters, but also exercise the ability of our staff to plan, as well as react to changing scenarios in the local community,” stated Woodmansee.
“The 2nd Regiment responded quickly to a simulated disaster in Stephenville, Texas. We activated three mass care shelters. Local residents, acting as role players seeking assistance, came to the shelters. Simultaneously, we conducted training in Ground Search and Recovery operations."
Soldiers from the 2nd Regiment traveled to regimental headquarters in Gatesville, Texas, while the advance team went on to the National Guard Army in Stephenville, Texas, January 21. The main body of the regiment arrived in Stephenville, January 22.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for us not only to work with the people of Stephenville, but also to coordinate with numerous civilian agencies such as local law enforcement, emergency management services and the Red Cross,” noted Woodmansee.
At Tarleton State University the 2nd Regiment’s activities were based out of Wisdom Gymnasium at Tarleton. Soldiers billeted there and used nearby classrooms to establish headquarters for the regiment and its three battalions. Upon arrival among the first activities were to set up radio communications and computer workstations in the tactical operation centers (TOCs). In addition a web-based emergency information management system called WebEOC was used to track movements and manage resource requests.
“This exercise was an excellent training to test our communications capability,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darrell Prather, 2nd Regiment. “We had soldiers at the shelters communicating by radio with our regimental TOC and our TOC with the headquarters of the entire operation. This very much mimicked what we would have to do in a real-world situation, especially if cell towers were knocked out. We also tested our capability using WebEOC."
Upon arrival at Tarleton, the regiment's three battalions conducted a survey of local buildings and churches as possible sites for mass care shelters. Then each battalion initiated shelter operations, January 22-23. Locations included St Luke’s Episcopal Church, First Baptist Church and Valley Grove Baptist Church, Stephenville, Texas. Each battalion had a shelter manager who supervised the set up space for the initial reception desk, check-in areas, sleeping areas for guests, and medical facilities. Local volunteers served as role players pretending to be evacuees needing shelter.
In addition, each of the battalions set up a mock points of distribution where during an emergency soldiers would distribute food, water, and ice to local residents.
Pfc. Kristin Galaviz, 2nd Regiment, stated that "with all our missions communications is very important to our day-to-day operations, including points of distribution. I am working and training with the best communications team. We work as a team to troubleshoot and come up with solutions."
Other soldiers trained in ground search and rescue at Hunewell Ranch, in Erath County. Assisting in the training was Mark9 (K-9) Search and Rescue, Dallas, Texas, and Lone Star Search and Rescue (K-9) teams from Wylie, Texas. These teams instructed soldiers on how to search with dog teams in support of search, rescue and recovery operations.
“The instructors and members were very enthusiastic and had the upmost dedication”, said Staff Sgt.Chris Gano. “Interaction with the K-9’s at the night exercise was a highpoint to the training. Our soldiers have earned a well-deserved certification in search and rescue.”
Another training took place at the Tarleton Challenge Rope Course where soldiers had the opportunity to participate in confidence and leadership tasks. According to Tarleton State University officials, the course is designed to “provide training in the areas of problem solving, interpersonal skills, communications and values explored through a series of unique, solvable and incremental initiatives and elements.”
Lt. Col. Wendell Sadler, Executive Officer, 19th Regiment, and a Tarleton State University professor, was the principal organizer of the exercise. "The university and Tarleton President Dottavio have generously hosted this training for the past six years. Their hospitality has allowed us to train in the skills that we will need for an emergency."
On the final day of training, soldiers from all units and the Tarleton ROTC cadets braved cold weather at Tarleton's War Memorial to witness the commissioning ceremony for 2nd Lts. Scott McKinlay, 2nd Regiment, and Stephen Wenzel, 19th Regiment. McKinlay had completed the Texas State Guard Officer Candidate School and Wenzel graduated from Texas A&M University ROTC program.
"As a recent graduate of the Officer Candidate School, I had the privilege of receiving some of the best leadership training provided by the Texas State Guard,” said McKinlay. “It has helped prepare me for the challenges ahead, but I was just honored to share the graduation ceremony with my family and the soldiers of the 2nd Regiment, whose support made it possible."
Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer Jr., Commander of the Army Component Command, Texas State Guard, told the soldiers that this training event "was one of the best exercises that I have seen in the Texas State Guard."