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NEWS | May 9, 2017

Service members and civilians stand ready to respond

By Sgt. Stephanie Ramirez U.S. Army Reserve Command

On Sept. 11, 2001, ashes filled what was once known as the capital of the world, and the clamors for help were heard around the globe.

That bloodcurdling event brought an entire nation to a screeching halt, and single handedly altered the hands of time for decades to come. However, as evidenced by the many shifts, changes and updates in emergency response policies since 9/11, being prepared for catastrophic events can be what makes a nation thrive.

The rescue teams that respond to catastrophic events such as 9/11 must be prepared to react on a moment’s notice. This type of readiness is only achieved through integrative, realistic training.

Annual training events like Vibrant Response at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, and Guardian Response at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Indiana, provide real-world scenarios to prepare chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive response units to integrate with civilian partners and respond to natural or manmade catastrophic events.

This year's exercises took place from April 24 to May 10 and simulated an improvised nuclear device explosion.

The 469th Medical Company-Ground Ambulance is one of two U.S. Army Reserve units attached to the 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, which is tasked as part of the Defense CBRNE Response Force.

Their mission during this catastrophic event was to move patients through the different levels of care. From the point of injury all the way up to the Air Force expeditionary medical support tent at Forward Operating Base Nighthawk in Camp Atterbury.

“We hope that these scenarios never actually happen, but if we ever get deployed to respond to an event like this it means the worst day has just occurred in the United States,” said Capt. Tanee Nimsakont, company commander for the 469th Medical Company-Ground Ambulance out of Wichita, Kansas. “It is our brothers and sisters, our families, our neighbors, our fellow countrymen that have been injured and that have been profoundly affected, whether it be by a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.”

The 469th Medical Company-Ground Ambulance was identified for the DCRF mission in 2015, and they're consistently training because they have to be able to deploy within 24 to 48 hours.

“We train as hard as we do because we fall to the level of our training when put on the spot,” said Spc. Ryan L. Flores, a medic assigned to the 469th Medical Company-Ground Ambulance. “I'm going to make sure that my skill level is solid. It's my job to take care of patients and that’s exactly what I'm going to do and I'm going to train to that standard.”

Overall, the DCRF consists of 5,200 personnel to include Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians from active-duty and reserve units. Their assets are used to support the primary agency in the event of a CBRNE incident. DCRF forces stand ready to assist in order to save lives, prevent further injury, and provide temporary critical support.

Guardian Response and Vibrant Response give the unit the opportunity to integrate directly with its active duty counterpart.

“Having an Army Reserve unit as part of the DCRF mission is essential,” said Maj. Erica Kane, the support operations officer for the 56th MMB. “They not only bring the ground ambulance capability, they also bring different perspectives and skillsets. Furthermore, they help breach the communication gaps between the civilian organizations and the military.”

“A lot of my Soldiers have civilian firefighter experience, paramedic experience, and even nursing experience,” said Nimsakont. “I think that's the strength of the Army Reserve, it brings all of these people with all of this civilian experiences together to achieve one mission.”

Training in a joint environment prepares each agency for when the threat is real. During these events they get to learn how to quickly and efficiently integrate with each other and execute the mission.

“I think this has been a great opportunity,” said Kane. “The training event has forced us to stress some systems and helped us see ourselves better so that we can refine our systems and processes both with internal units as well as external units so that when we assume the mission we are prepared.”