Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Homeland Security/Terrorist Response Exercise

Maryland Defense Force Joins National Guard for Major Homeland Security/Terrorist Response Exercise
Major Robert Hastings
Maryland Defense Force

BALTIMORE (11 September, 2007) - Elements of the Maryland Defense Force (MDDF) recently participated in Exercise Vigilant Guard, a major homeland security/terrorist response exercise held in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC, 5-7 September. Vigilant Guard is a National Guard Bureau sponsored series of national and regional exercises designed to enhance the preparedness of National Guard forces in performing their role as the first military responder in all domestic emergencies.

Maryland’s participation in Vigilant Guard involved the Maryland National Guard Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQs), Maryland Joint Task Force (JTF) and operational units from all four agencies of the Maryland Military Department; the Maryland Army National Guard (MDARNG), the Maryland Air National Guard (MDANG), the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), and the MDDF.

MDDF provided personnel from its 10th Medical Regiment as well as legal, chaplain, operations, communications, and public affairs personnel from its mission oriented units.

“MDDF personnel participated in both the command post exercise (CPX) and the deployment of the National Guard Initial Response Team,” said Brig. Gen. Courtney Wilson, MDDF’s commanding general. “This exercise allowed us to practice in a simulated environment many of the operational and coordination skills we would need to use in event of a real-world emergency. The experience of working with the National Guard and other emergency management personnel will no doubt prove very useful in the future regardless of the scenario.”

“Everyone put forth an outstanding effort this week,” Wilson added. “Marylanders have every right to be proud of their state military forces, including both the National Guard and the Defense Force, as well as the family members and employers who support them and provide them time away from work for training like this.”

Most MDDF participants were employed as staff officers in the CPX working side-by-side with their National Guard and MEMA counterparts to provide assistance and expertise to the JTF commander and operations officer.

MDDF medical officers assisted in planning for the employment of medical units and personnel in response to the training scenarios, analyzing medical intelligence and conducting mission analysis to determine how to deploy medical assets and when to call up additional medical capabilities.

“Working with our National Guard counterparts was invaluable,” said Lt. Col. (MD) James Doyle, an internal medicine and emergency medicine physician from Towson, Md. who worked at the Joint Task Force command post during the exercise. “Providing surge medical capability in event of an emergency is our primary mission which we prepare for on a regular basis. The command post aspect is new for us, and we’re more prepared and confident today because of this exercise.”

Communications personnel from MDDF helped manage the National Guard’s Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) system, a rapidly deployable communications package that provides the infrastructure for high-speed communications for the incident commander, with the ability to link local, state and federal communication systems to maximize interoperability and facilitate information sharing. MDDF personnel also augmented the Joint Task Force communications staff; conducting situation briefs, solving communications problems, and responding to requests for information.

Sgt. 1st Class (MD) Evan Creasy, an operations noncommissioned officer from Westover, Md., worked as a military liaison, coordinating military requirements, missions and information with various civil emergency agencies. “We managed requests for military assets from the civil agencies, conducted situation analysis, and tasked missions to our various military assets,” said Creasy.

Another of MDDF’s core missions which was exercised during the CPX is to provide experienced legal personnel to augment the National Guard’s legal resources.

"Participation in the Vigilant Guard Exercise gave me an operational perspective on the value and utility of having on-site legal support during any type of response,” said Maj. (MD) Laurie Kwiedorowicz, a lawyer living in Harford County, Md. “The exercise gave me valuable knowledge on the roles and responsibilities of a legal counsel during response exercises,” she added.

Maj. (MD) Robert Hastings, a public affairs executive from Rockville, Md., escorted embedded news media who flew with the Initial Reaction Team (IRT) aboard UH-60 helicopters to a simulated incident site in downtown Baltimore. “This is why I joined the Defense Force,” said Hastings, “to continue to use the skills I learned in the Army and in business to help keep America safe.”

The Maryland Defense Force is one of a number of state defense forces authorized by Congress under Title 32 and their respective state legislatures. While specific missions vary from state to state, state defense forces exist primarily to augment the capabilities of the National Guard. Employing volunteers who bring military experience and/or civilian professional skills, they supplement the capabilities of the National Guard, assist in National Guard mobilization for federal service, replace National Guard assets deployed out-of-state, and support state homeland security missions. State defense forces operate under the command of the Governor, as state Commander-in-Chief, and fall under the operational control of the state Adjutant General’s office. State defense forces receive no federal funds and are supported entirely by the state.

Headquartered at the Pikesville Military Reservation in Baltimore, the Maryland Defense Force is a volunteer uniformed state military agency organized under the Maryland Military Department. Formally established by the Maryland legislature in 1917, the unit's heritage and traditions trace back to the 17th century. Its mission is to provide competent supplemental professional and technical support to the Maryland Military Department and the Maryland National Guard.

For further information about the Maryland Defense Force, visit www.mddefenseforce.org.