WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sep. 15, 2008) -- As America remembers the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, more than 800 members of a joint response force are preparing for their new mission of responding to CBRNE, or chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive incidents.
Elements of the force, known as the CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF, assembled at Fort Stewart, Ga., Sept. 8-19 for a command post exercise called Vibrant Response.
Three brigades form the core of the force: the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart; the 1st Medical Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas; and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C.
The response force will be assigned on Oct. 1 to U.S. Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and placed under the operational control of U.S. Army North, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
This week, Col. Lou Vogler, U.S. Army North's chief of future operations, and Marine Corps Lt. Col. James Shores, director of plans and policy for Joint Task Force Civil Support, participated in a round table interview with online journalists to discuss the force, including its unique mission and training.
"U.S. Army North is the Army component of U.S. Northern Command," said Vogler, "and we're charged with coordinating the federal military response in the land domain for domestic operations or disasters, to include CBRNE."
Vogler said that the response force is a scalable, dedicated force that is prepared to reinforce state and local responders when they request federal assistance. The force's alignment under U.S. NORTHCOM shortens the line of command to increase readiness and responsiveness.
Training is a key element of readying the force for its mission, and Vibrant Response offers the opportunity to train in a realistic scenario before a crisis or incident occurs.
During the exercise, commanders and staff of the force will train, rehearse and exercise - from academic classes to making decisions and executing orders - all to help prepare them for the mission they will assume on Oct. 1, said Vogler.
"It's an opportunity for network building in an unprecedented assignment of forces," said Shores. "DOD always had allocated contingency sourced forces - but this is precedent-setting network building with the forces that we ultimately will go out and execute with. It's an opportunity to get to know our forces, to see them in execution, to mission-orient them and be that much better - to be that much more responsive."
One goal of the exercise is to exercise with partners from the civilian agencies they would support. To that end, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other interagency representatives are participating to ensure integration with civilian consequence managers who would lead a response, said Vogler.
"The overall federal response builds on the local and state response in accordance with the incident command system and existing plans and processes that are out there," said Vogler. "The response force would supplement local efforts."
The training allows planners and leaders to test and improve upon procedures from previous exercises and training.
When asked how responders were working to eliminate the communications difficulties of 9/11, Shores said that frequency management planning is a part of that training effort, and those issues are a part of the planning process.
Both Vogler and Shores reiterated the importance of training and planning to the success of the response force.
"We at Army North as the joint force land component command of NORTHCOM, and Joint Task Force Civil Support, as the standing CBRNE response headquarters, take this mission very seriously," said Vogler. "The assignment of the CCMRF just makes us that much more prepared in terms of having standing relationships and an ability to train with a specific force full-time, under the control of NORTHCOM, to ensure we are ready to respond. The force has always been in place, but now the relationships are closer than ever."
"This type of planning and coordination and training is a priority both in our headquarters and at NORTHCOM, as we understand our responsibilities to be ready should the requirement arise, God forbid," said Vogler.