by Airman 1st Class Anthony Small
113th Wing Public Affairs
5/19/2015 - VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- The
D.C. Air National Guard special disaster-response team concluded a week
of training with a final evaluation exercise in order to be certified
by the Defense Department, May 11-16.
The Guardsmen successfully completed the training tasks required to
achieve Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear and High Yield
Explosive - Enhanced Response Force Package validation according to DOD
A key section of that response was the DC Air Guard's Fatality Search
and Recovery Team, whose mission is to locate and recover the remains of
victims killed in hostile action or natural disasters.
"This is a unique capability that only the Air National Guard possesses,
and it's an essential capability for domestic support operations," said
Master Sgt. Dan Marx, 113th FSRT NCO in Charge. "This skill will allow
us to provide short notice assistance to local, state and federal
The training and evaluation was staged at the Virginia Fire Training
Center, a unique facility that features a robust assortment of training
environments, including collapsed buildings and structures.
"The Virginia Fire Training Center is a pretty impressive facility,"
said Tech. Sgt. Jeremiah Smith Team Bravo Lead 113th Wing's FSRT. "The
disaster area has buildings that have been reduced to piles of rubble.
It's about as realistic as you can get."
The mission of CERFP is to respond to CBRNE incidents and assist local,
state and federal agencies in conducting consequence management by
providing capabilities to perform patient decontamination, emergency
medical services and casualty search and extraction.
"The team has special training and equipment that allow them to operate
in a wide spectrum of hazardous environments, including those
contaminated by biological, nuclear or chemical agents," said Marx.
While the protective gear includes a battery-operated air purification
system, the suits themselves are not ventilated, and ambient
temperatures during the exercise hovered in the mid-80s, Marx said,
requiring careful management of work-rest cycles.
By the time they finish donning their suits, our team members have about
20 minutes to work, Marx said. "So that's 20 minutes to get into the
hot zone, do what you need to do, and come back out. The warmer it is,
the longer it takes to recover remains. High temperatures make for a
very time-consuming process."
Even with the high temperatures and intense environment the 113th Wing's FSRT achieved their mission.
"The recovery process went extremely well, despite the heat and intense environment," said Smith.
Another challenge was the presence of simulated ambulatory survivors,
courtesy of more than 40 actors who were hired to add a dose of
unpredictable realism to the scenario.
"This exercise really gave us a new realization of what we should expect
in a real-world situation," said Marx."We're going to have news media
and the civilian community watching us while we perform our mission, and
some of those civilians are going to want and need help."
For the 113th Wing's FSRT, that kind of awareness may be the most valuable lesson learned during the training and evaluation.
"This training was important, It gave us a real foothold on exactly what
our purpose is with respect to homeland defense, and how intense it can
get," said Senior Airman Dominique Comer Alpha Team Lead 113th Wing's
FSRT. "It's a dirty job but someone has to get the victims back to their