HOMESTEAD, Fla. –
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers teamed up with the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department to conduct training for real-world catastrophes at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida.
The Soldiers, all part of select units of the Command and Control Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Response Element-A (C2CRE-A), were tasked with mobilizing to assist local authorities in a training scenario involving an explosion with radiological fallout at the speedway Jan. 23, 2019.
The C2CRE-A mission is, on order, to deploy and provide mission command to Department of Defense (DoD) response forces conducting Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) Operations in an all-hazardous role and anticipating requirements in support of civil authorities, to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain public confidence.
The units participating in the exercise are collectively referred to as Task Force 302. Those units are; 302nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 490th Chemical Battalion, 413th Chemical Company, 456th Area Support Medical Company, 336th Engineer Company, and 144th Medical Detachment.
TF 302 is one of four task forces assigned to the 76th Operation Response Command, also known as Task Force 76, which maintains command and control of the C2CRE-A mission.
The realistic training will provide Soldiers with an increased level of readiness in order to ensure the task force units are able to conduct real-world missions in the event they are needed.
The Homestead-Miami Speedway, which hosted the final race of all three of NASCAR’s seasons since 2002, provides Soldiers with an exceptional opportunity to train in a different type of environment.
“When you take a look around, the Soldiers are actually getting real-world training … and it’s taking our capability to a whole new level,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Marlo Cross, command sergeant major, 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support). “The Soldiers are extremely motivated and excited to be a part of an exercise where they are integrated with the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue teams.”
The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department consists of 68 fire rescue stations. The stations reside within Miami-Dade County and serve 29 municipalities. Their response units are dedicated to air rescue service, ocean rescue, fire and rescue operations, marine, hazardous materials (HazMat), urban search and rescue (US&R), technical rescue, and venom response. They also provide aero-medical transport to trauma centers and other medical facilities. The department also supports disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation needs.
“We are grateful to have the Soldiers out here assisting with the response,” said Alvaro Tonanez, a lieutenant with the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department. “This is the third or fourth year we’ve done this, and each time, we see the integration improving.”
Tonanez says the firefighters spoke highly of working alongside the Army Reserve and that they enjoyed hearing the Soldiers’ stories. He also said although the uniform is different, the mission and procedures are very similar.
“We have some key assets which we can bring forth to assist local authorities,” said Maj. Gen. John Cardwell, special assistant to the commander of United States Northern Command. “We want to ensure we stay connected with all the different agencies. Exercises like this are outstanding to continue to build the bridge between what the Army Reserve can bring to bear to augment and help first responders.”
Cardwell says training with local authorities ultimately helps reduce the time it takes from receiving a request of support to actually delivering help to a patient. He also said that overcoming communication barriers is extremely important since the agencies have different ways of operating and speaking to one another.
For some Soldiers, this was their first time experiencing training outside of the typical field training exercise.
“It was a lot of fun … I feel like I’m doing something out here, this is a rewarding feeling,” said Pvt. 1st Class Seth Mittlehauser, a health care specialist with 144th Minimal Care Detachment. “In the beginning I was in my own head, but after I got going it was time to work and I just fell back on my training.”
Mittlehauser says there were a lot more casualties to treat than he expected and that having the moulage as detailed as it was added to his experience. He also said that the training seemed to be realistic and that the actors did a great job in helping them train.
“These Soldiers want to be part of something bigger, that’s why they’ve joined the Army Reserve,” said Cross. “They know when there’s a national emergency they can help resolve a problem that seems to be out of control.”
Cross says he’s thankful the Soldiers have the opportunity to participate in this training exercise and that this directly impacts the Army Reserve’s readiness.
“Hopefully, these services will never have to come together to render aid in a real-world capacity,” says Cross. “But if they do, citizens at home can sleep better at night knowing that the nation is constantly preparing to keep them safe.”