ROUND ROCK, Texas –
The Texas National Guard's 6th CBRN Enhanced Response Force Package Task Force participated in an emergency response training exercise at the Round Rock Public Safety Training Center Feb. 5.
The 6th CERFP is made up of Texas Air and Army National Guard members, including Airmen from the149th Medical Group’s Det. 1 and the 149th Force Support Squadron’s Fatality Search and Recovery Team. This task force may be called upon to assist first responders for domestic operations within FEMA region 6, which includes Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
During the exercise, members practiced responding to a simulated attack by searching for and extracting victims, providing decontamination and medical stabilization before turning them over to local first responders for transportation to area hospitals.
Capt. Jesse Hernandez, a medical plans and operations officer with the 149th MDG Det. 1, said the exercise focused more on providing local civil support versus the typical deployment training his team conducts during drill weekends.
“Who you’re actually working with may change; but for us medics, a patient is a patient whether we’re out on the battlefield or helping in a local city because of a CBRN threat,” Hernandez said. “We still provide the same level of care, and we follow the same clinical guidelines that we’re given.”
In addition to the standard medical training they receive in technical school, members of Det. 1 undergo chemical training and learn how to provide guidance to local leadership on how to protect first responders and treat patients who have been exposed to something hazardous.
“We try to make the simulations as realistic as possible,” Hernandez said. “They have an amazing training facility here in Round Rock, and we’re fortunate to have access to a rappel tower for our response medics and the engineers and have rubble piles to be able to pull patients out. There are not many other places we’d be able to get this kind of training.”
In addition to having access to a facility that supported all of their training requirements, the members were able to align their efforts with their Army teammates when practicing repelling and extraction techniques.
“It’s been a great experience working with our Army counterparts because they’re willing to jump in wherever they’re needed and help us get the job done, and we’re also able to refresh each other on our training,” said Senior Airman Robert Baldree, an aerospace medical technician with Det. 1, who specializes in search and extraction. “The reason this has been so successful is teamwork, constant communication and willingness to participate. If we can’t come together, we can’t complete the mission.”
For Tech. Sgt. John Castillo, a search and extraction medic with the 149th MDG Det. 1, this type of training was critical for him and his team when they responded to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
To combat the devastation caused by flooding, Castillo’s team members set up tents to support a local hospital that had lost power. They then provided medical care to people for 10 straight days. Though the team did not deal with chemical contamination during that hurricane response, they were able to use other skills.
“We had done similar training exercises prior to the hurricane, and that prepared us for how to respond,” Castillo said. “These exercises prepare us for real world events because the training we do individually and collectively all comes together very cohesively. We’re always with the same battalion and train together on joint search and extraction training exercises. We know exactly what to expect from each other so we can respond immediately.”