LAS VEGAS –
The mass confusion and aftermath of nuclear attack on American soil is a reality no one is ready and prepared to experience, with one exception; the Soldiers assigned to specialized units of the 76th Operational Response Command, 416th Theater Engineer Command, and 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support). It is the job of the Soldiers and Army leaders who prepare to defend the homeland and ready for “America’s Worst Day.” It’s the job of these citizen Soldiers to be ready at moment’s notice to deploy anywhere in the United States and respond to such a devastating scenario.
“The Soldiers are training to alert within 48 hours, report to home station, and respond to anywhere in the country in a 96-hour window to be able to decontaminate, treat and transport patients that are involved in a chemical or radiological attack; to definitive care at the hospital or wherever the locality has set up [medical care],” says Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Butler, acting first sergeant, 307th CBRN Company, Bell, Calif.
This is what these Soldiers are training for at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In the event of such an attack, these Soldiers prepare not only to complete their missions as Soldiers, but as members of larger U.S. Army Reserve elements. At task is to effectively coordinate the missions of three major command elements and execute the direct mission at the Soldier level, in a strict timeline, and with maximum effectiveness. All these goals set the scene for “America’s Worst Day.”
As tall buildings crumbled, the screams of victims fill the air. Contaminated air caused by a nuclear bomb burns the skin of victims on contact, and mass chaos and confusion are only a few of the realistic obstacles replicated to test units collectively as technical support forces for the Command and Control Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Response Element-A (C2CRE-A) mission. The purpose of the C2CRE-A mission is to deploy and provide mission command to Department of Defense (DoD) response forces conducting Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) Operations and supplement Joint Task Force - Civil Support’s lifesaving mission during a large-scale CBRN response effort.
Soldiers from the 307th Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Company and the 453rd CBRN Battalion, both based in Bell, Calif., under the 76th Operational Response Command, performed hazardous materials (HAZMAT) reconnaissance and mass casualty decontamination. In a combined effort, the 371st Minimal Care Detachment (Twinsburg, Ohio) and the 491st Medical Company (MCAS), but units of the 807th Medical Command, provided Pre and Post-Medical Monitoring for those Soldiers who conducted reconnaissance and urban search and rescue (US&R) missions; and conducted triage operations to treat decontaminated patients, respectively. The 409th Vertical Engineer Company (Windsor, CO) under the 416th Theater Engineer Command (TEC), maximized the coordinated effort by performing rope, vehicle, and structural rescue missions.
Soldiers from these three major Army Reserve Commands maximized their training opportunities by practicing real life missions designed to respond, act, and succeed at saving the lives of our citizens. The training was conducted around Clark County, Nevada including the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Henderson from Jan. 21-29, with a culminating simulated event on Jan. 28 where Observer Coach/Trainers (OC/T’s) from U.S. Army North evaluated and validated all the participating units’ level of proficiency to complete their Mission Essential Task Lists (METL’s). Leaders stressed to their Soldiers year-round leading up to this exercise, the importance of “how you train, is how you fight.” And their fight directly saves the lives of Americans.
“We try to keep our training as consistent as possible,” said Staff Sgt. Curina Baca, 491st MCAS, who served as the noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the ambulatory tent during the exercise. “The way that you train is the way you’re going to end up doing it out there…we put a lot of emphasis on our Soldiers to approach [this training as] if this was really a patient,” Staff Sgt. Baca continued instilling a sense of importance to her Soldiers.
At the training mission continues, you can see the success of unit leaders’ efforts in the words and actions of young Soldiers, Soldiers whose job it will be to the be the face, the representative of the United States Army Reserve when treating American lives.
“The more you work together, the faster these [decontamination] tents get up…” said Pvt. 1st Class Ivan Ordonez, a CBRN Specialist and member of the decontamination team for non-ambulatory patients, assigned to 307th CBRN Company. “We have overcome [challenges] since last time, where it would probably take three hours to set up, and now it’s only taking 45 minutes or an hour or so.”
It is this effort, in training and coordination that will make Army Reserve units and its citizen Soldiers, successful at responding to “America’s Worst Day,” within 48 hours, anywhere in the country.
These Soldiers will remain on mission through June 1, 2023.