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VG 17 Trains State, Federal Agencies In Disaster Response

Members of the Guam CST train during VG17 at the North Las Vegas Fire Training Center with the North Las Vegas Fire Department.  Photo by Maj. Josephine Blas, Guam Public Affairs Officer

Members of the Guam CST train during VG17 at the North Las Vegas Fire Training Center with the North Las Vegas Fire Department. Photo by Maj. Josephine Blas, Guam Public Affairs Officer

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Vigilant Guard 2017 (VG 17) in Las Vegas was the first of four joint operational disaster readiness exercises this year hosted by United States Northern Command. This week's exercise, 14-18 Nov., involved multiple local, federal and state agencies including: the city of North Las Vegas, the Nevada and California National Guard and the Nevada Division of Emergency Management.

Nevada National Guard response elements involved in the exercise included its CERFP, or Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package and Civil Support Team (CST). Additionally, the California National Guard deployed its Homeland Response Force (HRF) for the exercise.

The scenario involved a 6.7-magnitude earthquake, which struck along the Frenchman Mountain Fault at the base of the Frenchman Mountain range between Lake Meade and Las Vegas causing fatalities and damage to major infrastructure.

During the scenario, emergency response assets were requested to assist the City of North Las Vegas with victim recovery, hazardous material operations, security, communication operations and area search.

Sgt. Brittney Lynch, of the 777th Engineer Detachment, Nevada Army Guard, said there are several methods used in emergency response coordination.

"Once the CST goes through and determines which chemical it is, we have our recon team go in and sweep the area," said Lynch, who was on a team tasked with clearing a chemical hazard from a large department store affected by the earthquake. "They detect what levels and how to control the chemical agent."

VG 17 is designed to train responders in all facets of emergency management, including the unknown.

"For exercises like this you really have to be very intentional about what you can learn in order to be prepared for what we don't know will happen," said Brig. Gen. Ondra L. Berry, assistant adjutant general, Nevada Air Guard. "Disaster preparedness is one of the best things we can do as military, and people are counting on us to do our best work no matter what is going on in the environment -- no matter what is going on in our community -- we have to show up and get things right."

In addition to training, visitors from foreign countries were invited to observe the exercise. Representatives from five countries attended: Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Taiwan.

Vatulele Tuputupu, of the Tonga National Emergency Management Office, said he developed a better understanding of how communication and medical teams here identify people's fears and implement the necessary approaches when dealing with an earthquake.

Nearing the end of VG 17, emergency responders are confident they will be ready and prepared to assist in the event of a natural disaster.

"The one thing I've learned is it's never going to be the same," Lynch said. "This time we've actually gone to two different locations and it has set the mentality that if there is an earthquake or natural disaster, it's not going to be in that one specific place. You're going to have to do a wide-area search to extract and save victims."