Posted on: 14-JAN-14

Story by: Capt. Esperanza Meza

PFC Bannister and PFC Becker evacuate role player, SGT Cherie Southard from 4th Regiment, away from the mocked gas leak area.
PFC Bannister and PFC Becker evacuate role player, SGT Cherie Southard from 4th Regiment, away from the mocked gas leak area.

STEPHENVILLE, Texas – Tarleton State University and other local Stephenville landmarks served as training sites for a hurricane spawned tornado that caused wide spread damage as part of the scenario this past weekend. Wide Area Damage Assessment (WADA) and shelter management training were part of the tasks conducted by the volunteer citizen soldiers as observers, from TSU Emergency Management and TXSG HQ staff monitored the exercise to ensure effective communications with other key military and civilian personnel.

TXSG Major Wendell Sadler, Tarleton professor and key member in planning the event stated, “The goal of the exercise was to impress upon the TXSG, local authorities and private agencies, that disasters are going to happen and that we need to have a structure to implement,” he said. “Whether it’s setting up a shelter, a point of distribution (POD) for supplies or providing a meal, each agency must be in place to be fit into that structure in a support role.”

Local areas utilized for shelters were the Paradigm building of First Baptist Church, the National Guard Amory, Stephenville Parks and Recreation gym, the former firehouse on Harbin and Tarleton State University. The Texan Stars dance team and Rock House Residents from TSU also participated in a significant manner as role players.

Training provided Saturday morning and afternoon were necessary to keep the troop’s skills sharpened and ready for any emergency they may encounter. Two regiments, 19th and 4th along with members from 4th Air Wing, plus personnel from the Tyler Medical Unit and Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) were deployed by short briefs sent out at different times by the main operations center as to where to travel to and given instructions of their tasks for the mission, then report back to their perspective units.

TXSG representatives, Brigadier General Jake Betty, the Deputy Commanding General of the Texas State Guard, Colonel Paul Watkins, Chief of Staff, Army and

19th Regiment 1st Battalion troops, (L) PFC Joshua Smith and (R) PFC Hunter Becker, carry one of the Texan Star dance team members, Nichole Fort, playing as the injured victim, for medical attention during the WADA exercise while Callie Childers, Texan Star, PFC John Rizo (L) and PFC Ronny Bannister(R) look on.
19th Regiment 1st Battalion troops, (L) PFC Joshua Smith and (R) PFC Hunter Becker, carry one of the Texan Star dance team members, Nichole Fort, playing as the injured victim, for medical attention during the WADA exercise while Callie Childers, Texan Star, PFC John Rizo (L) and PFC Ronny Bannister(R) look on.

Lieutentant Colonel Pedro Barreda, G3 Operations, were on site in the operations center to evaluate the event and provide feedback. Chief Warrant Officer 2, Janet Schmelzer, also a Tarleton professor, served as liaison between the member agencies and TXSG. Tarleton student and TXSG member, Private First Class (PFC) James Ford, from 4th Regiment, served as part of the exercise.

New 19th Regiment TXSG member, Private First Class (PFC) Zaw Muang, participating in his first exercise stated, “I have never been a victim of a natural disaster and stayed in a shelter. The exercise gave me a different perspective and related me back to Katrina in being more sympathetic to the needs of the victims.”

One new addition in the scenario involved ATMOS Energy in creating a mock gas leak while the troops were conducting WADA. As explained by Jimmy Little, an ATMOS employee and observer, “When you have a natural disaster, like a tornado, you are going to have gas meters blown away and exposed broken lines and this is to teach them to recognize the hazards and block the area off till the gas company comes around.”

“The gas leak exercise is to identify and create a safe zone which is upwind from the leak to where you do not smell it,” added Renea Price, another ATMOS employee. “Once you smell it, you are not supposed to stand in front of it and make a phone call or use your radio and stay in the safe zone and block the perimeter.”

4th Regiment member and role player, Sergeant Cherie Southard, stated, “As a role player in the WADA mission for the 19th Regiment I was a victim of a gas leak. It was definitely a great learning experience and valuable training event for the role players as it was for the troops of the 19th Regiment as the role players were able to evaluate the soldiers’ actions. I feel certain we will use what they learned in the event if we are put in a similar situation,” she said. “The motto of the Texas State Guard, Texans helping Texas, is similar to Regimental joint training, Regiments helping Regiments.”

“We cannot thank enough TSU President, Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio. Also, TSU Emergency Control Center, Chief Alvin Allcon and the university police department in supporting this event the past 4 years,” said Major Sadler. Thanks also goes to Risk Management Director Kent Styron, Jamie Trusner, and the IT Services Network and Communications department.”