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North Carolina ANG exercises Vigilant Guard 2015 in a new way

North Carolina Forest Service first responders assess a patient’s simulated injury during Vigilant Guard 2015 exercise held at the 145th Civil Engineer Squadron-Regional Training Site in New London, N.C., March 6-8, 2015. Vigilant Guard is an exercise that provides an opportunity for Army and Air National Guard, North Carolina Emergency Management and county civilian partners to come together to train as true partners in order to respond effectively to natural disasters. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

North Carolina Forest Service first responders assess a patient’s simulated injury during Vigilant Guard 2015 exercise held at the 145th Civil Engineer Squadron-Regional Training Site in New London, N.C., March 6-8, 2015. Vigilant Guard is an exercise that provides an opportunity for Army and Air National Guard, North Carolina Emergency Management and county civilian partners to come together to train as true partners in order to respond effectively to natural disasters. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ronald F. Helms, Jr., 145th Civil Engineer Squadron, returns to “tent city” area after inspecting repairs of washed out road at the 145 CES Regional Training Site, New London, N.C., March 4, 2015. This real-world incident was carried out in order to allow access to the force beddown area where over 200 military and civilian personal will call home during Vigilant Guard 2015. Vigilant Guard is an exercise that provides an opportunity for Army and Air National Guard, North Carolina Emergency Management and county civilian partners to come together to train as true partners in order to respond effectively to natural disasters. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ronald F. Helms, Jr., 145th Civil Engineer Squadron, returns to “tent city” area after inspecting repairs of washed out road at the 145 CES Regional Training Site, New London, N.C., March 4, 2015. This real-world incident was carried out in order to allow access to the force beddown area where over 200 military and civilian personal will call home during Vigilant Guard 2015. Vigilant Guard is an exercise that provides an opportunity for Army and Air National Guard, North Carolina Emergency Management and county civilian partners to come together to train as true partners in order to respond effectively to natural disasters. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

U.S. Army National Guard soldiers, arrive by convoy to the 145th Civil Engineer Squadron-Regional Training Site, New London, N.C., March 7, 2015, to participate in Vigilant Guard 2015. Vigilant Guard is an exercise program that provides an opportunity for Army and Air National Guard, North Carolina Emergency Management, and county civilian partners in order to respond effectively to natural disasters. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

U.S. Army National Guard soldiers, arrive by convoy to the 145th Civil Engineer Squadron-Regional Training Site, New London, N.C., March 7, 2015, to participate in Vigilant Guard 2015. Vigilant Guard is an exercise program that provides an opportunity for Army and Air National Guard, North Carolina Emergency Management, and county civilian partners in order to respond effectively to natural disasters. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

Members from the U.S. Air National Guard, 145th Civil Engineer Squadron, install 16 Alaskan Small Shelter Systems at the 145th CES-Regional Training Site, New London, N.C. to provide lodging for over 200 personnel participating in Vigilant Guard 2015, March 6-8, 2015. Vigilant Guard 2015 is an exercise that provides an opportunity for Army and Air National Guard, North Carolina Emergency Management and county civilian partners to come together to train as true partners in order to respond effectively to natural disasters. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

Members from the U.S. Air National Guard, 145th Civil Engineer Squadron, install 16 Alaskan Small Shelter Systems at the 145th CES-Regional Training Site, New London, N.C. to provide lodging for over 200 personnel participating in Vigilant Guard 2015, March 6-8, 2015. Vigilant Guard 2015 is an exercise that provides an opportunity for Army and Air National Guard, North Carolina Emergency Management and county civilian partners to come together to train as true partners in order to respond effectively to natural disasters. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

John Howard (right), North Carolina Forest Service incident commander, talks to members of the plans and operations section about asset utilization during the 2015 Vigilant Guard Exercise. This exercise, held at the 145th Civil Engineer Squadron Regional Training Site, New London, N.C., March 6-8, 2015, is designed to measure the effectiveness of National Guard forces supporting civilian activities following a hurricane. Howard is working in a team of three incident commanders, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Gregory Goforth, 145th Mission Support Group deputy commander representing the North Carolina Air National Guard, and Scot Brooks from the state Division of Emergency Management. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Julianne M. Showalter, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

John Howard (right), North Carolina Forest Service incident commander, talks to members of the plans and operations section about asset utilization during the 2015 Vigilant Guard Exercise. This exercise, held at the 145th Civil Engineer Squadron Regional Training Site, New London, N.C., March 6-8, 2015, is designed to measure the effectiveness of National Guard forces supporting civilian activities following a hurricane. Howard is working in a team of three incident commanders, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Gregory Goforth, 145th Mission Support Group deputy commander representing the North Carolina Air National Guard, and Scot Brooks from the state Division of Emergency Management. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Julianne M. Showalter, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

Members of the North Carolina Air and Army National Guard, state Division of Emergency Management and North Carolina Forest Service gather for a morning briefing to cover general control objectives for the incident scenario during the 2015 Vigilant Guard Exercise, March 7, 2015. This exercise, held March 6-8, 2015 at the 145th Civil Engineer Squadron Regional Training Site, New London, N.C., is designed to measure the effectiveness of National Guard forces supporting civilian activities following a hurricane. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Julianne M. Showalter, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

Members of the North Carolina Air and Army National Guard, state Division of Emergency Management and North Carolina Forest Service gather for a morning briefing to cover general control objectives for the incident scenario during the 2015 Vigilant Guard Exercise, March 7, 2015. This exercise, held March 6-8, 2015 at the 145th Civil Engineer Squadron Regional Training Site, New London, N.C., is designed to measure the effectiveness of National Guard forces supporting civilian activities following a hurricane. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Julianne M. Showalter, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Gregory Goforth, deputy commander for 145th Mission Support Group, explains to local media that, for the first time, N.C. National Guard, Emergency Management and Forest Service personnel came together to train as true partners in order to respond effectively to natural disasters. Vigilant Guard 2015 exercise was held at 145th Civil Engineer Squadron-Regional Training Site, New London, N.C., March 6-8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Gregory Goforth, deputy commander for 145th Mission Support Group, explains to local media that, for the first time, N.C. National Guard, Emergency Management and Forest Service personnel came together to train as true partners in order to respond effectively to natural disasters. Vigilant Guard 2015 exercise was held at 145th Civil Engineer Squadron-Regional Training Site, New London, N.C., March 6-8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

NEW LONDON, N.C. -- Hurricane Zephyr devastates North and South Carolina and its citizens! This is the scenario for Vigilant Guard Exercise 2015, bringing members of the North Carolina Air and Army National Guard, state Division of Emergency Management and North Carolina Forest Service together at the 145th Civil Engineer Squadron Regional Training Site in New London, N.C., March 6-8, 2015.

Once a disaster happens manpower is going to be a critical need. When civilian authorities respond to a natural disaster the military may be called in to assist with that response. With this exercise, 145th Civil Engineer Squadron was first on scene. In a real-world emergency, 145th CES will prepare a bed-down area in order to receive and support first responders.  Tents are erected, power and water purification equipment are strategically placed and washed out roads are repaired by CE task force using heavy construction equipment.

"This is a great opportunity to train our young airmen and prepare them for a real-world mission." said Lt. Col. Timothy Moran, officer in charge, 145th Civil Engineer Squadron, Regional Training Site. "During this exercise we also work and train with our army counterparts so we can understand each other's capabilities and work stronger and more effectively together."

The objective of this exercise also includes establishing a unified incident command system to manage a Joint Receiving, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (JRSOI) site at the 145th CES/RTS.

"It's a three state exercise. For the North Carolina piece, we're providing support to the citizens of North Carolina by processing civilian and military personnel and resources centrally to provide relief," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Gregory Goforth, 145th Mission Support Group deputy commander and National Guard incident commander for the exercise.

Sitting side by side with a Forest Service or state Division Emergency Management counterpart, members of the North Carolina Air National Guard are exercising the effectiveness of the incident command system in a hurricane scenario.

"We're learning how to work together in this joint exercise environment. I'm learning how we'd do this if something real hit," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jeffery Harwood, 145th Airlift Wing Comptroller Flight. 

"We're sitting at the same table and totally integrated. It's never happened before," said John Howard, North Carolina Forest Service incident commander.

The N.C. Forest Service has utilized the incident command system since the early 90s to manage the large scale forest fires. The incident command system has now been recognized nation-wide as the primary means of organization for support and relief in any disaster, whether it's a hurricane, earthquake or other type of response.

Over the course of the exercise the participants practiced receiving and deploying force packages with an in-processing goal of 45 minutes from arrival at the JRSOI site. A force package could be personnel, supplies, off road vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks, fuel trucks, bull dozers and/or other assets used to provide relief. 

Responders are checked in and briefed on the scenario, which gives each person a clear picture of what's happening and where they'll be utilized.

"If you send folks too much, too little, or too late you've made the problem worse on the people that need help. Organizing it up front at this level allows us to mobilize forces from a central location then pushing them out in time to help. It provides a better service to the people impacted by the storm," said Howard.

Three counties provided personnel and vehicle assets to add realism to the exercise to include Buncombe County, Mecklenburg County and Stanly County.

In total, 217 personnel and 45 vehicles were processed through for accountability and deployment to aid relief efforts in this category 4 hurricane scenario.

The scenario is based on destruction caused by the 1989 storm Hurricane Hugo.  The full force of the storm struck with winds of 135 to 139 mph, and it made an imprint area of an estimated 600 miles.

"In 1989 I was a responder to Hurricane Hugo, and I was responsible for taking a task force of bulldozers down to help clear roads. We didn't have the incident command system we use today so we went down to help without a lot of guidance and safety information. We can now provide that information to the crews," said Howard.

"The biggest take away for the National Guard is learning the incident command system from N.C. Emergency Management and Forest Service. They're teaching us and vice versa. It's a true partnership," said Goforth.

"This exercise, the big picture, allows us to work together in order to react better together. Now we can respond as an entire community with a communally understood concept," said Master Sgt. Rebecca Tongen from the 145th Civil Engineer Flight and filling the role of Plans Chief in the exercise. 

Vigilant Guard 2015 was a great success as it allowed all agencies to hone their skills in a central location. Military and emergency responders can now bring help to the communities in North Carolina or wherever responders are needed.