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Ensuring safety on the homefront

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – For the second time in its five-year history, the 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade is preparing to assume the role of emergency response for national disasters that require federal assistance.

“It is an honor to be trusted with the responsibility of such a large-scale mission like [the Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Consequence Response Force],” said Col. James F. Reckard III, 4th MEB commander. “Our soldiers performed remarkably when we first took this mission in 2009 and will no doubt do the same during our second rotation.”

The DCRF consists of about 5,200 personnel to include soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians from active-duty and reserve units. The DCRF is a scalable force that is part of a larger collaborative response capability between local, state, tribal and federal agencies, according to the official Joint Task Force – Civil Support website.

The mission is broken into four critical task forces: logistics, medical, aviation and operations.

As the command and control element of Task Force Operations, soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th MEB have trained to use their experience in military occupational specialties ranging from engineering and military police tactics to logistics and CBRN response in order to assist local and state agencies in their recovery efforts by dispatching military units with the capabilities necessary to accomplish the tasks assigned by JTF-CS.

These soldiers along with thousands of Department of Defense personnel will be tested over the next two weeks during the annual Vibrant Response exercise based out of Camp Atterbury, Ind.

“This year’s training situation for Vibrant Response will probably be one of the top CBRN disaster scenarios listed in the National Response Framework,” said Capt. Brian Byerly, 4th MEB plans officer. “There is a lot of interagency coordination and contingency plans that go in to preparing for a large-scale disaster that would enable the president to authorize a federal response like this.”

But the hardest part of disaster response for federal agencies, according to Byerly, is simply getting there.

“From a logistics point of view, this mission is probably one of the most challenging in the military because we operate on a condensed timeline to get our responders out the door as quickly as possible while operating safely and ensuring that all the necessary equipment arrives in a timely fashion as well,” said Maj. Rodney McCutcheon, 193rd Brigade Support Battalion executive officer.

Task Force Operations is equipped to conduct initial response missions including casualty search and rescue, patient decontamination, incident site surveying, monitoring, marking, mortuary affairs, as well as air and ground transportation support, engineer support and logistics sustainment.

“Nearly all of the DCRF capabilities can be found within our task force,” said Maj. Todd Heintzelman, 4th MEB executive officer. “We hope to certify all of our units during Vibrant Response and look forward to assuming this new role as emergency responders…ensuring safety on the homefront.”

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