NEWS | April 29, 2021

Army Reserve Soldiers train for ‘America’s worst day’

By Staff Sgt. Monte Swift 204th Public Affairs Detachment

More than 200 Army Reserve Soldiers of the 307th Chemical Company, Bell, California, trained for the worst of the worst during a nuclear attack scenario as part of Guardian Response, a multicomponent Homeland Emergency Response Exercise held at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Indiana, April 22.

The complex, mass-casualty training event took place in a hypothetical environment, where a simulated nuclear event occurred in a major U.S. city. The mission included three main objectives handling casualties: recognizance, decontamination and medical treatment.

“As an Army Reserve Soldier, this is a unique opportunity to train for a real-world scenario that would take place state-side where we can help our fellow citizens,” said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Butler, noncommissioned officer in charge, 307th Chemical Company. “This is an interesting opportunity because the location is built to mimic a real environment in a large city where a disaster has happened.”

During the exercise, Soldiers responded to a mock shanty town complete with live actors who acted as casualties. The actors provided realistic training that added stress and chaos to the mission.

“The civilians who are helping us conduct this mass-casualty decontamination are really helping us out,” said 1st Lt. Scott Sanchez, Operations Officer and Second Platoon Leader, 307th Chemical Company. “It is one thing to have a mannequin casualty versus seeing a real person who is alive, screaming and in pain. You are the person who is going to expedite their transition from this disaster into the hands of people who can take care of them.”

Following rescue, casualties were processed through a fully operational decontamination and medical facility. Soldiers operated real equipment and improved on their unique skills in a realistic, high-stress environment while being evaluated on their ability to conduct mass-casualty decontamination.

Bulter said, operating at full-speed, the unit is capable of decontaminating 40 ambulatory casualties and 20 nonambulatory casualties per hour depending on the situation.

For many newer Soldiers, this high-stress environment forced them to turn training into action, while benefiting from the guidance of experienced NCOs.

“Many of our Soldiers, with the exception of a few senior noncommissioned officers, have never completed a mission where we would respond to a situation in the United States. Typically, this mission would fall on the Army National Guard,” said Sanchez.

“However, the U.S. Army Reserve supports the Chemical Response Enterprise mission in the event of ‘America’s worst day,’ when as many Soldiers as possible are needed to thoroughly decontaminate as many casualties as possible and get them the medical attention they need.”

Current COVID-19 guidelines and procedures provided an extra element of realism to the scenario, as Soldiers handled the added weight of an actual worldwide pandemic, and highlighted the importance of maintaining proficiency within U.S. Army components.

“We have to maintain our COVID procedures, because it’s not only our Soldier’s health that is at risk, but also that of their families and the general population the moment they get off the plane when the mission is over.”

The day’s training, however, was only one scenario in a multiweek training exercise, where Soldiers will be required to complete their jobs in a wide range of day and night time environments. Soldiers will be further tested with search and rescues in simulated destroyed buildings, parking garages and even train wreck locations.

“The way the Soldiers have responded to this mission is pure positivity,” said Sanchez. “Because this mission requires a lot of motivation and high-speed movement, if you do not have that positivity and drive to be successful here, you are not only failing your peers, but you are failing the American people. That’s the bottom line.”