Full spectrum training for infantry Soldiers

Story by Capt. Ryan Hubbs, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry

Operation Guardian Shield

Soldiers from Bravo Company 1-149th Infantry participated in one of the largest regional, multi-agency exercise in the history of the Kentucky Guard at Camp Sherman, Ohio, June 16-18, 2015. Acting as the Quick Reaction Force for a Special Focus Event known as Operation Guard Shield, members of Bravo Co. quickly assembled at their home station, loaded their equipment, and deployed to the exercise site in less than 7 hours. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Ryan Hubbs)

Camp Sherman, Ohio — “GAS, GAS, GAS!” What would you do if you had to respond to a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, or Nuclear (CBRN) threat? For members of Bravo Company 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry, they were about to find out…

With the focus of the National Guard’s efforts over the last 14 years, centered on the War on Terror, it is important as Soldiers in the National Guard to be able to respond domestic events as well.

Soldiers from Bravo Co. participated in one of the largest regional, multi-agency exercise in the history of the Kentucky Guard June 16-18. Acting as the Quick Reaction Force for a Special Focus Event known as Operation Guardian Shield, the infantrymen quickly assembled at their home station, loaded their equipment, and deployed to the exercise site in less than 7 hours.

OGS Litter Carry

Soldiers from Bravo Company 1-149th Infantry escort a simulated casualty during a training exercise at Camp Sherman, Ohio, June 17, 2015. Acting as the Quick Reaction Force for Operation Guard Shield, members of Bravo Co. quickly assembled at their home station, loaded their equipment, and deployed to the exercise site in less than 7 hours. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Ryan Hubbs)

In conducting this full scale exercise event, the 40 participants flew from London, Kentucky to Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio in a C-130 provided by the Ohio National Guard. The soldiers then conducted a quick Joint Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration (JRSOI) briefing describing the situation on the ground. From there the Bravo Co. participants loaded up onto four UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters and departed for Camp Sherman, Ohio were they would begin their exercise.

The scene at the incident site was a train derailment caused by a domestic terrorist organization (for exercise purposes only). The train was carrying hazardous materials which were in theory released into the air. Bravo Co.’s job worked with the incident manger, local law enforcement, local fire departments, and the CBRN Enhanced Response Force (CERF) to provide security to the site, help evacuate casualties, and prevent decontaminated personnel from entering into the contaminated zone and vice versa.

Staff Sgt. David Olszewski, Platoon Sergeant for 2nd Platoon, Bravo Co. discussed the benefits of training for the mission prior to executing. “Luckily, we have trained with our protective masks so it was not a complete shock to the system; however, it was still difficult to communicate while wearing them. Having trained with masks previously allowed us as Soldiers to not only have confidence in our equipment, but also provided us the stress inoculation necessary to remain calm and collected while wearing the mask.”

Rubble and debris from the derailment site could be seen everywhere. Role players were hired to act as casualties, on lookers, family members searching for loved ones, and members of the media to make the scenario more realistic.

OGS TCP

Soldiers from Bravo Company 1-149th Infantry man a tactical control point during a training exercise at Camp Sherman, Ohio, June 17, 2015. The exercise, Operation Guard Shield, brought National Guardsmen from at least eight states together with a variety of civilian organizations to respond to a simulated domestic incident. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Ryan Hubbs)

Throughout the day Bravo Co. established and manned a tactical control point, provided litter assistance for casualties who had undergone the decontamination process, conducted a wide area search for survivors, and treated multiple simulated casualties for a variety of injuries all while wearing their protective gas masks and equipment.

With such a large-scale event involving a variety of organizations, interagency communication was difficult but vital to the exercise.

“The most challenging aspect of the operation was coordinating across multiple agencies including military, law enforcement, and emergency management,” explained Olszewski. “Agencies use different communication systems, pro-words, acronyms, and command structures so it can be a challenge to determine the most effective and efficient means of sending and receiving information.”

Along with Soldiers from the Kentucky Guard, Operation Guardian Shield included Soldiers and Airmen from Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Georgia, West Virginia, Ohio, and National Guard Bureau. Also, representatives and agents from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, FEMA, Civil Air Patrol, Red Cross, and Ohio Emergency Management were all on the scene. This made the need for coordinated communications extremely important.

At the conclusion of the exercise, all 40 Bravo Company participants loaded up onto to the UH-60s, returned to the air base, loaded onto a C-130 and returned to London where they officially ended their mission.

“We hope to continue to participate in high profile exercises such as this,” said Capt. Ryan Hubbs commander of Bravo Co. “This event allowed us to complete a full spectrum of mission essential tasks and practice our most important mission which is to protect the citizens of our nation. It was great to be able to shift the focus onto a domestic response event, and give us broader perspective of what our duties as members of the National Guard entails.”