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By Lt. Col. Robert Ramage Warden
Utah National Guard
The Utah National Guard has a new training site for the Region VIII Homeland Response Force’s search and extraction team, as well as partner civilian urban search and rescue teams. Lt. Col. Erick R. Wiedmeier, commander of the 97th Troop Command and Region VIII Homeland Response Force mission, conducted a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Collapsed Structure Venue Site on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, at Army Garrison Camp Williams, Utah.
The ceremony consisted of a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) Response Enterprise (CRE) capabilities demonstration, a structure walk-through, and an award presentation. Guests from across the CRE were present. Distinguished visitors from National Guard Bureau, Army Interagency Training and Education Center, the Region VIII, IX, and X HRFs, and Utah State delegates and civilians attended the grand opening.
Brig. Gen. Kurt Davis, director of joint staff, Utah National Guard, provided remarks about the significance of the new training venue. “This is going to be a great asset for training our Guardsmen, but beyond that we see this as a great training venue for our local, state and regional urban search and rescue partners as well,” said Davis. “In addition, it will give us the opportunity to train jointly with our civilian partners which will only enhance our training, capability and better prepare us to answer the call when that real catastrophe hits.”
Wiedmeier added, “A large-scale earthquake along the Wasatch front will cause significant damage to our urban infrastructure requiring Utah’s civilian and military search and rescue teams to be trained in life-saving techniques. Around 85 percent of the Utah population lives in a fault zone. The Collapsed Structure Venue Site at Camp Williams will allow the partnerships between the Utah National Guard and our civilian counterparts to expand their readiness. Training together in a controlled environment before an actual catastrophic event will help keep urban search and rescue teams safe while saving Utah lives.”
Urban Search and Rescue is a vital and perishable skill set of the Utah National Guard’s domestic operations. As one of only three military-owned USAR training venues west of the Rocky Mountains, this site will not only allow the Utah National Guard’s search and extraction team the opportunity to train, but all National Guard search and extraction teams and civilian urban search and rescue teams. This $377,000 venue will also allow military and civilian agencies to train together, and build those necessary partnerships needed in an “all-hazards” response.
"As seen with the condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida June 24, 2021, and the candle factory leveled by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky Dec. 10, 2021,the speed at which urban search and rescue teams can respond and work together can be a matter of life or death,” said Maj. Kory Lund, the deputy commander of the CBRN TF. “With the size of this venue, multiple National Guard search and extraction teams can train together or train with civilian urban search and rescue teams. This ability to train together will allow teams to share techniques and build the necessary skills and partnerships needed to work together and save lives when the time comes."
The design of the training facility provides a realistic collapse condition with the greatest level of safety protection. The CSVS has several training lanes for teams to practice critical life-saving skills when responding to an emergency disaster.
“The CSVS will enable the Region VIII HRF to be trained, relevant, and ready to respond to natural or man-made disasters in our state, region, and the West, saving lives and mitigating human suffering by providing trained and ready personnel. The training opportunities the CSVS will facilitate in developing and maintaining the effectiveness and efficiencies of the Region VIII HRF," said Col. Tammy Manwaring, previous 97th TC and Region VIII HRF commander.
The project to fund, design and construct the CSVS took approximately four years. "I am overwhelmed with joy that we were able to complete this project. The CSVS has been the most rewarding and challenging project I have ever worked on. It encompasses three years of hard work, dedication, and relentless pursuit to finish the build,” said Master Sgt. Jeffry Yon, HRF logistics non-commissioned officer.
This training site is one of many where the HRF will be able to accomplish its mission and support the Federal Management Agency.
The National Guard sourced 10 HRFs, one HRF for each of the FEMA Regions in 2010. The HRFs became fully operational in 2012. Utah is the host state of FEMA Region VIII’s HRF. The HRF is a joint mission comprised of approximately 570 Army and Air National Guard personnel. Of the 570 personnel, approximately 45 are full-time. The 97th TC, 19th Group Support Battalion, 65th Fires Artillery Brigade, 151st Mission Support Group, 151st Medical Detachment and the 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade all contribute personnel to complete the roster. Also included is a fatality search and recovery team from the New Mexico Air National Guard. The core of each HRF is chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive response capability, but they are also ready and capable of responding to all hazards.
HRFs manage a catastrophic event by providing command and control to multiple Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams and CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Packages. There are 57 WMD-CSTs and 17 CERFPs throughout the country. HRFs also bridge coordination between federal-controlled elements of the CBRNE Response Enterprise, including Defense CBRN Response Force Command and Control Elements and follow-on forces.
The HRF mission requires the organization to respond within six to 12 hours when directed by proper authority or consent of the governor to conduct command and control; casualty assistance; search, and extraction; decontamination; medical triage and stabilization; and fatality search and recovery to save lives and mitigate human suffering. Additionally, the HRF must be able to transition operations to civil authorities and redeploy. The adjutant general may employ the HRF to support a state CBRNE or all-hazards response under the governor's direction or support another state's response under a supported governor.
Search, and extraction is the most difficult skill set for the HRF and CBRN TF. All members of the S&E must be certified in Level I Rope Rescuer, Level I Confined Space Rescuer, and Level I Structural Collapse Rescuer certified per National Fire Protection Association 1670. Before the CSVS, the search and extraction teams coordinated with Unified Fire Authority and Task Force 1 in Magna to use their facilities for the past ten years to conduct meaningful training.
"It has cost the Guard both time and money to utilize those facilities. With our Collapsed Structure Venue Site at Camp Williams, we can conduct S&E training whenever we want and still be in close proximity to the rest of the CBRN TF and HRF tactical operations center locations,” Said Lt. Col. Jeremy Stevenson, Region VIII HRF deputy commander. “The primary function of the S&E Element is to locate and remove casualties from assigned areas of responsibility (all within the hot zone (contaminated area)). Casualties are transported to the casualty collection points to receive basic life support. The medical personnel attached to the S&E element are responsible for conducting the initial triage of casualties rescued by the element.”
The CSVS will provide a unique training site that will increase the readiness for military and civilian search and extraction/rescue teams.
“Our CSVS may become the premier CBRN TF training location in the Western United States where CBRN TFs, CERFPs, DCRFs, and civilian task forces throughout the West can come and train,” said Stevenson.
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