Small Wars Journal

CBRN

78th Homeland Response Force: On Call, We’re Ready

Following the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, ten Homeland Response Forces (HRF) were directed for creation within the National Guard Bureau for a Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) response.  Georgia was one of ten states selected to stand up these new unit types.   

The Georgia National Guard selected the 78th Troop Command—consisting of US Army and Air Force personnel—as the headquarters, attaching chemical decontamination, medical, military police, sustainment, transportation and command units.   Re-designated the 78th Homeland Response Force, this unit was responsible for responding to a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, or Nuclear (CBRN) incident anywhere within FEMA Region IV, which includes not only Georgia, but  Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina as well. 

The 78th HRF began its unit integration and task assignment process which required understanding and training within the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS).  Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) equipment such as trucks, trailers, communications equipment, and chemical and radiological detection devices, allowed for seamless integration with local First Responders.  We also integrated our assigned military equipment into the DSCA operation to provide a robust self-sustaining operation for up to five days.  With this combination of COTS and military equipment the unit can self-deploy anywhere within FEMA Region IV, and arrive within 10 to 20 hours of notification.

The Governor of Georgia is the release authority for the 78th HRF; supported entities can request either a portion or the entire 78th HRF capability via an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).  The EMAC provides the legal boundaries in which the HRF can support the incident.    

Once the 78th HRF receives notification for deployment, it begins the Notification Hour (N-Hour) sequence.  This sequence has been evaluated during eight different exercises since September 2011, including during Vigilant Guard last year, in North Carolina. 

As each Incident is different in scope, size and general organization, 78th HRF has had the opportunity to expand their military abilities by supporting two civilian entities; a notional, Jacksonville, FL incident and Georgia Ports Authority, a military-civilian entity through Joint Task Force (JTF) Panther, NC and a notional Political Event Incident. 

Following Vigilant Guard 2011, 78th HRF quickly transitioned to a National Special Security Event (NSSE) in less than twenty-four hours.  The immediate task at hand was to synchronize all efforts toward the NSSE.   JTF Panther, 78th HRF and JTF Civil Support worked together to develop a Department of Defense Urban Area Security Initiative plan focused on Consequence Management (CM) around Charlotte, NC in support of the NSSE.   This rapid transition clearly displayed 78th HRF’s adaptability and flexibility. 

This joint planning was a grass roots planning session with a clearly defined problem statement: “how do we provide a complete and synchronized CBRN focused CM plan”.  The final product was a simple plan based on the assumption that civil authorities would direct all ingress routes upon arrival at Charlotte’s outer interstate belt, I-485.  By the end of this planning session, all three entities clearly understood their unit planning requirements culminated at the Line of Departure (LD).      

The need to save human lives and alleviate suffering means that the National Guard is the responding military entity for the first ninety-six (96) hours from the time an incident occurs.  78th HRF has the capability to continue the response with the assistance of the supported entity.  Regardless of the incident type, response time must be quick, which means we must make simple, flexible plans.   We can perfect the plan while en-route to the incident area through phone conferences, mobile internet connections and the use of seat assignments by staff section.  This allows for a full Common Operational Picture (COP) development. 

With the use of commercial collaboration tools such as Adobe Connect and Google products, we can provide our civilian counterpart a clear understanding of capabilities and current operations without the usual military security issues.  Currently, the HRF lacks a single standard communications medium, so we have adjusted to a wide variety of communications programs.  This allows us to integrate with our counterpart’s medium of choice (except for CPOF, due to the required data encryption and equipment set). 

In addition to integration with the supported entity, multi-service component integration is critical as well.  The 78th HRF has integrated with the United States Marine Corps, JTF Civil Support, Civil Support Teams, CBRN Enhanced Response Packaged Force, JTF Panther and JFHQ-North Carolina during Vigilant Guard 2012 and JTF Panther support for the Democratic National Convention.  The continued integration comes in several forms; capability briefs, planning sessions and exercises.  The common slogan in the DSCA community and CBRN operation is, “If the first time we trade business cards is at the Incident Commander (IC) linkup, its too late”. 

78th HRF will continue to integrate with all entities through site visits, phone conferences and training events.  Critical to our success is approaching every event without preconceived notions, bringing all tools and equipment to bear and understanding our supporting role.  DSCA means, we, the military, are supporting civil authorities during times of distress.  More specifically, our mission is to man, train, and equip a Homeland Response Force (HRF) to provide a response capability to assist civil authorities in saving lives and mitigating suffering in response to a CBRN incident while continuing to provide trained and ready troops to support overseas contingency operations.                 

Joint Task Force-Civil Support: Americans Helping Americans

Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS) is a permanent military headquarters responsible for integrating and controlling federal military forces in response to a catastrophic Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN) incident. When such an event occurs, our organization manages the 5,000-member Defense CBRN Response Force (DCRF), highlighted in our previous blog entry

Soon after I took command of JTF-CS, we took part in the annual Vibrant Response 13 exerciseSpanning the state of Indiana and northern Kentucky, and involving over 9,000 service members, cadre, and role players, the exercise replicates the effects of a 10-KT nuclear detonation in a major US city.  Such an event could kill hundreds of thousands, with millions more injured, sick, and homeless.

The magnitude of such an exercise and its implications for real-world impact make me think of my children, family and friends. These are our people:  Our responsibility to help those in need is tremendous.

JTF-CS controls designated DOD forces as they provide life-saving and life-sustaining capabilities to our federal, state, tribal and local partners.  We also help communities recover from a major CBRN event or natural disaster. This is a very capable response force that is ready for for such missions as urban search and rescue, mass casualty decontamination, medical triage and stabilization, and evacuation in a CBRN-contaminated or affected environment.

If we are deployed during a major event, it is truly a bad day for the United States. But we will provide the best military support possible to the primary agency responding to that incident.

JTF-CS is augmented with units from each of the Armed Forces, based on deployment rotation cycles and functional capabilities. We train and coordinate with them to improve our ability to respond to a national emergency.

It is worth noting that a CBRN incident may not necessarily come in the form of a nuclear detonation, perpetrated by terrorists.  Last year, JTF-CS sent advisors to assist US Pacific Command in their efforts to help the people of Japan in the wake of the deadly nuclear disaster in Fukushima. We also play a key role in conventional disaster relief.  In August of last year, JTF-CS sent a command and control element to support FEMA as they prepared for the landfall of Hurricane Irene.

JTF-CS is a unique organization, capable of attending to the needs of not only our fellow Americans, but our partners as well.  We work diligently to ensure that we are ready to meet that call for duty. I’m confident that when we are called up, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen will be able to meet the point of impact and do whatever is needed to save and sustain lives.

We belong to the best military in the world due to the absolutely dedicated men and women that join the U.S. Armed Forces.  These men and women are focused and determined to do everything possible to protect and sustain our Nation’s freedom.  This mission is all about Americans helping Americans.

Army North’s Task Force 51: Ready When It Counts

As we continue our series on the Defense Department’s CBRN Response Enterprise (CRE), we are in the second week of US Northern Command’s annual "Vibrant Response" exercise.  This exercise not only validates the abilities of our newest specialized response force, the Command and Control CBRN Response Element – Bravo (or C2CRE – B), but it also sustains the abilities of C2CRE – A, led by US Army North’s deployable command post, Task Force 51 (TF-51).  C2CRE – B is comprised entirely of Army National Guard forces, while C2CRE – A consists of both Active Duty and Army Reserve forces.   

 To shorten the response time to a CBRN incident, most of the federal response assets have been re-allocated to the state and regional level, leaving only 1500 personnel in the C2CREs.  However, the C2CREs would not be the first federal forces to respond to an incident: they could either reinforce the Defense CBRN Response Force (DCRF), or even respond to a separate incident.

The C2CREs are comprised of a 2-star headquarters and five task forces (operations, aviation, sustainment, special troops, and medical); plus one Initial Response Force (IRF) specializing in decontamination, technical search and extraction, and medical triage.  The IRF enables the C2CRE to immediately push life-saving capability while it receives additional forces. 

TF-51 is a rapidly-deployable 2-star headquarters for C2CRE-A and is capable of employing and sustaining specialized response forces, in support of civilian authorities after a CBRN incident.  In concert with Army Forces Command, TF-51 also oversees the readiness of its allocated C2CRE forces.  TF-51 can respond to any hazard, not just CBRN.  This demands a constant state of readiness, which the Army supports with the personnel, equipment, and training necessary to maintain a standing, all-hazards response headquarters focused on the homeland.  

Title 10 forces play a vital role in ensuring the nation’s security and safety at home.  However, due to the unique aspects of federal forces operating in the homeland, proper training is vital.  To this end, TF-51’s newly-assigned Soldiers attend a myriad of courses designed to ensure they are proficient in their new mission.  Shortly after their arrival to TF-51, all Soldiers receive extensive training in Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA)—totaling nearly 50 hours of instruction—in which they interact with representatives from different state and federal agencies.  Classroom training is reinforced through a yearlong series of exercises in concert with federal, state and local civilian authorities.

The Army is in need of consequence management experts within its ranks who understand operational art in a DSCA or a CBRN environment; applying the right response at the right time, and in the right place . . . and it starts with Army North and TF-51.  Through education, training and cooperation with our state and federal partners, this dynamic team stands ready to deploy and render assistance to our fellow citizens their time of need.

The CBRN Response Enterprise in the Homeland

Since the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the Department of Defense (DoD) has worked tirelessly to prevent, and if necessary, rapidly respond to a Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN) incident in the United States. 

In the wake of the 1993 bombing, Presidential Decision Directive 39 approved the creation of the Army National Guard’s  Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams (WMD-CSTs).  These 22-person teams, postured in every State and Territory, can respond to a CBRN incident within three hours, identify CBRN materials, assess the consequences of a CBRN incident, and advise civil authorities on appropriate response measures.  

But by the mid to late nineties, it became obvious that such a catastrophic incident would require a more comprehensive response from the DoD.  Thus, the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Amendment 4349 was introduced, creating two additional response elements: Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Enhanced Response Force Packages (CERFPs) and Joint Task Force - Civil Support (JTF-CS).

CERFPs can locate and extract victims from a contaminated environment, perform mass patient decontamination, and provide medical treatment as necessary to stabilize patients for evacuation.  Each of the nation’s 17 CERFPs are comprised of approximately 186 members of the Army National Guard, and can respond to an incident within six hours. 

JTF-CS is an active duty joint headquarters whose primary mission is to provide command and control for DoD forces responding to a catastrophic event. During a CBRN incident, JTF-CS has the ability to respond with the Defense CBRN Response Force (DCRF), comprised of approximately 5200 personnel from all four services, which can respond within 24 to 48 hours.

Shortly thereafter, the 2010 National Defense Appropriations Act gave the DoD an even greater role in CBRN response, authorizing Homeland Response Forces (HRFs).  There are currently 10 HRFs collocated in each of the ten FEMA regions throughout the United States. Each HRF consists of approximately 566 Army National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, and can perform all of the functions of a CERFP, plus provide additional security and command and control capabilities.   HRFs can respond to an incident within 12 hours.

The DoD also established two separate Command and Control CBRN Response Elements (C2CRE).  Each C2CRE is comprised of approximately 1500 personnel. These elements provide life saving capability and are prepared to reinforce existing operations or provide support to a separate incident. They include members from the Total Force - Active, Reserve, and National Guard.

In total, there are approximately 18,000 DoD members assigned to 57 CSTs, 17 CERFPs, 10 HRFs, two C2CREs, and the DCRF, prepared to respond to a domestic CBRN incident.  Altogether, these organizations make up the DoDs CBRN Response Enterprise (CRE).

It is important to understand that the CSTs, CERFPs and HRFs are Title 32, National Guard organizations working in support of their respective state Governors, while the DCRF and C2CREs are employed in a Title 10, Active Duty status working for US Northern Command, which in turn, supports a larger Federal response.

As with all combatant commands, US Northern Command exercises command and control over several service component commands, and has designated its Army component, US Army North (USARNORTH), to oversee the CRE, and to provide a headquarters for one of the two C2CREs.

USARNORTH uses its Contingency Command Post as the headquarters for C2CRE(A) and works in collaboration with the National Guard Bureau (NGB) and the various States’ Adjutant Generals to help train and validate the NG assets that reside in the CRE.

On behalf of NORTHCOM, USARNORTH also works with each of the services to ensure forces dedicated to the CRE participate in an annual joint exercise known as Vibrant Response.  Held every year at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, Vibrant Response validates the DoD’s CRE, working closely in support of our Federal, State, and Local partners.  The results of the exercise help to refine the CRE in both structure and capability. In fact, over the past two decades the CRE has grown in size, name and capability all in pursuit of creating the most effective organization capable of responding to a domestic CBRN incident.

But of course, there will always be room for improvement: USNORTHCOM is in the process of conducting an assessment of the current CRE.  ARNORTH, along with its National Guard partners are ensuring all aspects of the assessment are complete and accurate.

This blog series is intended to generate discourse and provide a greater understanding of the CRE. We are especially interested in your comments and concerns.  Please do let us know what you’re thinking in the comment section!