Story and Photographs by Tech. Sgt. Agustin Salazar, 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard
ROUND ROCK, Texas - Members of the Texas National Guard's 6th CERFP Task Force participated in a disaster response evaluation exercise Dec. 4-8.
The Texas National Guard's 6th CERFP Task Force includes the 149th Medical Detachment-1 and Fatality Search and Recovery Team from the 149th Fighter Wing, an Air National Guard unit headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. This task force includes Air and Army National Guardsmen who may be called on to assist first responders within FEMA region 6 -- Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
Lt. Col. Joseph McDaniel, the chief medical officer assigned to the 149th's Det. 1, supervised his team's efforts during the exercise.
"The purpose of this evaluation is to certify that we meet standards for hurricane response and all that entails as it pertains to disaster preparedness," McDaniel said. This particular exercise simulates a disaster caused by an explosion where patients are exposed to chemical, nuclear and biological warfare."
Leaders of the task force conduct these responses at least three times a year, since members may be asked to support first responders during large-scale emergencies. The "C" in "CERFP" stands for CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear), which is an integral part of their "ERFP" (enhanced response force package).
Capt. Jesse Hernandez, a 149th medical plans and operations officer, oversaw the joint task force's planning and integrated operations.
"This exercise highlights the 149th's ability to perform and manage multiple missions," Hernandez said. "It validates to the governor that the 149th is a very important wing to the state of Texas."
The team showcased its response efforts during Hurricane Harvey.
"During Hurricane Harvey, we were pulled out as an a la carte response team," Hernandez said. "We were used as a primary E.R. for a week and a half until they were able to get their power and water running."
Leaders note that another benefit of this task force is the multilayer perspectives it includes. The various members are as diversified as the various job roles they hold within the task force. Some, for example, may hold military jobs that are vastly different from their assigned responsibilities within CERF-P. This military diversity does not always include the additional civilian experience many members have as an added perspective.
"These teams -- it's their passion," said Master Sgt. Kristin Bovinet, an observer, coach and trainer for the National Guard Bureau's Joint Surgeon General's office, as she evaluated the task force during the exercise. "For some of them, it is not their primary duty. There are many who hold other career fields, yet they are still managing to come out here and complete their duties."
Responding to domestic operations and natural disasters while integrating with other federal and civilian agencies is a major part of what a state's National Guard does for the nation's defense, a point not lost on Hernandez.
"Every single component in the CERF-P brings a certain flavor that other components might not be able to provide," he said. "The joint capability brings a more robust capability to the civilian agencies so that we can integrate and have a unified response to any event."
"All the teams come together, and they make it work because they know deep down that lives depend on it," Bovinet said.