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NEWS | Feb. 5, 2020

Exercise Sudden Response 20 showcases task force support to civil authorities

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Members of Joint Task Force Civil Support, or JTF-CS, at the direction of U.S. Army North and U.S. Northern Command, rehearsed force and equipment employment, life-saving operations, and web-based command and control collaborative tools Jan. 23 to 29 in Killeen, Austin and Fort Hood, Texas, to ensure capabilities for Defense Support of Civil Authorities.

The JTF-CS provides command and control of assigned defense chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear response force units at the request of civil authorities, providing federal emergency response efforts such as mass decontamination and search and rescue operations.

For Exercise Sudden Response 20, JTF-CS led the multi-echelon, command post exercise to replicate a no-notice deployment and employment of military forces. Approximately 1,000 service members, 50 City of Austin personnel and 10 Travis County staff members participated in the exercise.

“The overall goal of this exercise is to practice getting better at Defense Support to Civil Authorities in the event that we are ever needed to respond to a catastrophic domestic CBRN disaster,” said Maj. Gen. William “Bill” Hall, JTF-CS commanding general.

The response force did not start from scratch when determining how to run this exercise. The National Response Framework, or NRF, guidance directs responses to multiple potential disasters and describes how to coordinate resources between local, state, tribal and federal agencies, and within the private sector and other nongovernmental organizations.

The NRF also gives a blanket description of what  constitutes a catastrophic incident; “any natural or man-made incident, including terrorism, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the population, infrastructure, environment, economy, national morale, or government functions.”

These types of catastrophic events could result in significant nationwide impacts over a prolonged period. Such impacts could also significantly interrupt military and other governmental operations and emergency services to an extent that national security could be threatened, which is why holding this type exercise is essential to military and civilian readiness.

“The training here is extremely valuable,” said U.S. Army Capt. Kareem McCombs, company commander, 181st CBRN Company, which participated in field training exercises throughout SR20. “It’s hard to replicate real-life training. For instance, we have real-world players that are processing through our decontamination line, giving my soldiers the actual repetition they need.”

During Sudden Response 20, JTF-CS also hosted more than 30 military personnel and civilian distinguished visitors at the Killeen Special Events Center Jan. 28, where they received briefings on the command’s mission, collaborative tools and web applications.

The group also toured the command’s Joint Operation Center, where they interacted with JTF-CS personnel to gain an understanding of day-to-day operations at the command during a CBRN response, then headed to the field training site at Fort Hood to see firsthand how CBRN reconnaissance and surveillance, urban search and rescue, and mass decontamination are done.