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Two U.S. Army North leaders peered intently Nov. 7 as members of their command's Civil Support Training Activity met with leaders of the Ohio National Guard's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, which is located near Butlerville, Ind.
Although Lt. Gen. Thomas Turner, the commanding general of Army North, and Command Sgt. Maj. George Nieves, his senior enlisted leader, have visited numerous training exercises during their time as the command's senior leaders, the Vibrant Response 10.1 Field Training Exercise was perhaps more foreboding than most as federal response teams melded together to combat the affects of a simulated terrorist's 10-kiloton nuclear blast in downtown Indianapolis.
More than 4,000 service members and their civilian partners joined forces for the exercise at the training center as well as nearby Camp Atterbury and various other locations in the area.
Army North, as the Joint Force Land Component Command, plays a large role in ensuring the Department of Defense's response to a disaster such as this one is an integrated one, which is vital to successfully provide assistance to Americans during their time of need.
"This is not a 'pick-up' game where you can arrive at the scene of an event and figure out what everybody's roles and missions are," said Turner. "They need to know each other, and they need to come in ready to operate. We have, over the past three years, seen incredible strides in that direction at all levels - federal, state and local."
The exercise is extremely important, he added, because it is the first time the command has conducted a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High Yield Explosive Consequence Management Reaction Force exercise on such a large scale.
This type of scenario would be so catastrophic that it would require the combined capability of all the responders to mitigate the effects of such a devastating event, said Turner. As such, it is critical to perfect the integration of local, state and federal responders.
"This is very important to our nation and the American people," he explained.
It is also important that the American public understands that the United States has the capability to respond to a catastrophic disaster of this nature.
"This training is very important," said Nieves. "It's about a response force of American Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines - American citizens - helping other American citizens in a time of crisis. That's as simple as I can put it - Americans helping Americans."
During the exercise, said Turner, practicing the integration of federal capabilities and how they interface with the state is a vital tasking for the Army North and Joint Task Force - Civil Support forces on the ground.
If a state's assets have been exhausted, said Nieves, everyone should know that DoD has a response force that can come in and provide assistance, provide consequence management, at the site. Army North and JTF-CS serve in support of the lead federal agency.
"We are proficient at that," he said. "It takes training - and that's what we are doing here.
"Everyone I have spoken to has really embraced what we are doing here. If needed, there is no doubt that they will answer the call and come in with bags packed, ready to help their fellow citizens."