Joint force trains to assume duties as chemical, nuclear responders in homeland

By Patti Bielling | U.S. Army North Public Affairs | September 09, 2008

A two-week training event at Fort Stewart, Ga., is preparing elements of a joint force for their new mission as the U.S. Northern Command’s dedicated force designed to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive incidents, commonly called CBRNE (see-BUR-nee) incidents.

Exercise Vibrant Response takes place Sept. 8-19 at the Army post near Savannah, Ga., to train elements of the CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF.

Pronounced “see-smurf,” the CCMRF is a federal Department of Defense initial entry force that is scalable and task-organized to mitigate loss of life and relieve suffering in response to a CBRNE disaster or terrorist attack.

The response force will be assigned Oct. 1 to U.S. Northern Command and placed under the operational control of U.S. Army North, the command’s standing joint force land component command.

“The exercise is designed to educate key leaders and staff on the response environment and to train them together to work as a joint team,” said Lt. Col. Larry Ritter, operations chief of Army North’s Civil Support Readiness Directorate. 

Three brigade task forces form the core of the multi-component, multi-service response force: the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Ga., the 1st Medical Brigade from Fort Hood, Texas, and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Bragg, N.C.

The response force also includes Air Force medical and engineering elements, Marine Corps technical support forces and elements of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and Defense Logistics Agency in order to conduct assessment, search and rescue, decontamination, medical, aviation, engineering and logistics missions.  

Over the next year, Army North and its subordinate, Joint Task Force-Civil Support, will exercise with CCMRF 9.1 in deployment readiness exercises and field training exercises integrated with national and regional exercise programs.

These events will ensure that the force is fully integrated as part of the Department of Defense tiered response capability, which includes state-based National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams and the National Guard CBRNE Enhanced Response Forces, Ritter said.

Although the Department of Defense has always had a capability to respond to CBRNE incidents, this is the first time that these forces will be assigned directly to U.S. Northern Command, said Col. Lou Vogler, chief of future operations at U.S. Army North.

“Assigning them will allow Northern Command to directly influence the operational and training focus of the forces and ensure a trained and ready response force when needed,” Vogler said.

U.S. Army North continues to work with U.S. Northern Command, the Department of the Army, Joint Task Force-Civil Support and other agencies to develop two additional CCMRFs.