JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
Task Force-51 Soldiers from U.S. Army North’s rapidly deployable headquarters deployed from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in support of Vigilant Guard-Ohio disaster and emergency response exercise Aug 3-4.
The exercise, hosted by U.S. Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau, tests the states response capabilities through simulated attacks.
“We are going to replicate that the infrastructure in the cities of Ohio had a data breach or a hacking breach of their power systems and their entire power grid has been taken out,” said Capt. William A. Alvarado, TF-51 Current Operations Battle Captain. “We will be able to work together with the National Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and all the entities there that require federal Title 10 assistance.”
Alvarado said this exercise is important because it is a learning opportunity for TF-51 and helps it prepare for future disasters.
“The exercise will prepare TF-51 to be able to rapidly deploy within 24 to 48 hours and have the plans in place to be able to have a federal military entity to assist in a major disaster,” Alvarado said.
Matthew J. Hopper, a telecommunication specialist for TF-51, explained the biggest role as a task force is coordination with the federal, state and local partners to assist with any disaster response.
TF-51 is supporting VG-Ohio with personnel who are subject matter experts in different aspects of a disaster response, including logistics, personnel, medical, aviation or engineer staffs, Hopper said.
“We will be there to replicate what Army North can do,” Alvarado said. “What we can do is be able to tell them this is what your federal forces can provide from this element and how we can help the NORTHCOM commander to better assist you as well in your emergency at the local, state and national level.”
Alvarado, who previously came from an infantry background, touched on the impact the U.S. Army and TF-51 have during a disaster event.
“It is great to be a part of an organization that plays an important part in natural disasters and emergency relief,” Alvarado said. “When you are on the ground as a warfighter and do that for so many years then have the opportunity to come over here and see how the Army and TF-51 helps it is pretty incredible to be a part of."
Hopper said he is eager to work with his team during VG-Ohio.
“I am looking forward to this exercise,” Hopper said. “We have a new team and everybody seems to be really hungry to learn. The build up to this has been one of the most successful and we have learned more on the prep for this one exercise than we have in a while.”