CAMP GRUBER, Okla. - Emergency management leadership from nine different states attended the Texas Military Forces Homeland Response Force training exercise to observe disaster preparedness certification training at Camp Gruber, near Muskogee, Okla., March 5, 2014.
Civilian and military visitors ranged from various fire departments and the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, critical infrastructure director to Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, the adjutant general – Oklahoma.
Joint Task Force 136 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Texas Military Forces' Homeland Response Force, or HRF, is conducting a weeklong exercise involving approximately 800 service members rehearsing their response to large-scale disasters.
“This is the reason the National Guard is such a great tool,” said Col. Patrick Hamilton, Domestic Operations Commander, Texas Military Forces. He explained that the HRF often conducts training with other civilian agency first responders. Hamilton further described how the National Guard provides first responders with additional resources to assist with crisis management.
As guests were led through the training area they witnessed soldiers and airmen dressed in chemical suits “responding” to a large-scale chemical attack. “Casualties,” in the exercise, were evacuated with precaution as service members ensured the chemical threat was contained.
The scenario involved two large chemical attacks and a broken water main, said Col. Lee Schnell, Joint Task Force 136 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade commander, Texas Military Forces. Service members trained to assist first responders in casualty evacuation, triage, and search and rescue in a contaminated environment.
Even with snow covering the ground, and temperatures hovering around freezing, the service men and women seemed to maneuver easily through the makeshift village in their chemical suits to render aid.
TCEQ, imbedded several hazardous material specialists into the training to work along side the HRF said TCEQ’s Critical Infrastructure Director Kelly Cook.
“The HRF is a force multiplier,” said Cook. “We do a lot of the same things, but Texas is a big state and they provide much needed support for large disasters.”
There are 10 HRFs in the U.S. and each one has to certify every 24 months, said Schnell. Leadership from six different states came out to observe this exercise in order to assist with their own unit operations.
The training is a certification exercise for the HRF, but it is also preparation for the next time Texas, or any other state’s emergency response force may need their help.
“I came here today to check on the Texas Military Forces and show my support for the HRF concept,” said Cook, also explaining that this HRF falls under Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, Region 6. “The great Region 6 HRF, we love working with these guys.”
FEMA Region 6 states include Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.