Known as the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package (CERF-P), these soldiers and airmen assist local, state and federal agencies in conducting consequence management by providing capabilities to conduct personnel decontamination, emergency medical services and casualty search and extraction. They consist of both Army and Air Missouri National Guard assets working together in support of civilian emergency personnel for a strong, unified response team.
"Our intent of the training is to validate our ability to respond to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or weapons of mass destruction event," said Lt. Col. Joe Coyle, the CERF-P team commander. "Basically we want to exercise our headquarters staff, build our skill level so we can be more versatile and verify our training."
The CERF-P team is made up of several components. At the exercise, soldiers from the headquarters and headquarters company, 35th Engineer Brigade, of Fort Leonard Wood, made up the command and control portion.
Soldiers from the 117th Engineer Team (Asphalt), of Monett, and the 276th Engineer Company (Vertical), of Pierce City, provided the search and extraction element. Airmen from the 139th Airlift Wing, of St. Joseph, made up the medical component.
At full strength, an entire CERF-P team consists of 186 personnel, but for this exercise less than 80 were involved. The team gets together quarterly on a drill weekend to train, with an additional week of training, like this one, as part of their two weeks of annual training.
Coyle, who lives in Ballwin, said he was pleased with how the team performed.
"Our training time is limited during the year," Coyle said. "In a couple of days, the group has come together, built our skill levels and proved we've maintained some skills. We also worked on some things we haven't worked on before, so it's all been valuable training."
Early in the week, Coyle said the team pulled together to overcome some hurdles.
"We got it all working," he said. "That just proves the versatility of the National Guard soldiers and airmen, and that's really amazing how they can do that when you see them for one weekend a month and a couple of weeks a year."
The command and control component of the team's basic mission is to quickly set up tents, computers, portable satellite, phones and other communications systems to provide a base of operations to coordinate the team.
Sergeant First Class Leonard Morrow, operations noncommissioned officer in charge, has been a part of the command and control component of the team for more than two years. He said because new Guardsmen are brought in all the time to replace those who have moved on, and because they also have additional training for their regular state and federal missions, all training opportunities are precious.
"They get a lot of experience," said Morrow, who lives in Edgar Springs. "We need to do this more often."
For the search and extraction component, soldiers donned protective gear and went over their techniques and procedures for searching through an onsite rubble pile for "survivors," portrayed by training mannequins.
"Basically this training is to relearn the basics so we can do our job safely," said Sgt. 1st Class Steve White, the commander of the search and extraction component.
Guardsmen in the search and extraction component work with ropes, knots, pulley systems, personnel extraction devices and breaching and shoring equipment.
A few days after this training, the unit was on duty May 22 conducting search and rescue missions within hours of the tornado hitting Joplin. The unit searched the wreckage of Home Depot and Walmart in the darkness.