MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. –
Soldiers of the 526th Engineer Construction Company based out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, faced one of the American people’s worst fears, a nuclear explosion on home soil.
This is exactly what the Dog Faced Soldiers faced during exercise Guardian Response 22, hosted by the Army Reserve's 78th Training Division, held at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana. The multicomponent homeland emergency exercise is designed to boost capabilities, hone their skills at urban search and rescue, and improve readiness of the Army units assigned to the Department of Defense’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Enterprise, commonly called DCRF.
“Allowing all of us to work together and share what’s in our tool kits allows us to all work together on the same page and understand the assets the military offers,” said Lee Given, an observer, controller and trainer. “This allows us to understand how things work and operate as a whole whether you're wearing green or local firefighters.”
The engineers company was one of 15 units that combined to face the exercise that presented all the units with a simulated nuclear explosion within a major city in Pennsylvania. In the scenario millions of lives were lost in the initial blast, thousands were injured and many more are missing or trapped in collapsed buildings and transportation hubs.
Wearing full body, protective chemical suits made of thick plastic, the Soldiers rotated through the various scenes to breach obstacles of wood and concrete to reach and retrieve the injured. The work is tedious and physically strenuous for the Soldiers.
“They are on a 45 minute, 15 minute work and rest cycle,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Gibson, operations sergeant for the 526 ECC. “The temperature outside is 60 degreed but closer to 101 degrees inside their suits. It's tough work.”
Battling against time to save lives, the Soldiers worked through long hours of hauling equipment to their needed locations and employing them. Chain saws, steel pry bars, blocks of wood, generators, and hydraulic spreaders commonly called jaws of life were among the equipment used throughout the mission.
“It’s pretty tough,” Gibbons said. “They are constantly hydrating and resting so they’re performance is outstanding. We can’t rescue if we are hurting ourselves.”
The exercise has had the engineers and other units working around the clock for six days to evaluate their performance to successfully meet their mission requirements. Each step of the way is overseen by the observer, controller, trainers and senior U.S. Army North leaders.
According to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Van, the commanding general of the Joint Task Force-Civil Command that oversees DCRF, the importance of the exercise is to ensure the next units assigned to the no notice response force are prepared to respond as needed to any kind of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack on U.S. soil.
“These are skills we hope to never have to use,” Van said. “But, we are ready if it does. Inside 24 hours, we are ready to save lives.”