West Virginia National Guard, 167th AW Played Part in Historic

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt Sherree Grebenstein
  • 167th Airlift Wing
It was a call they never received, but were well prepared to answer.

Roughly 250 Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the West Virginia National Guard's Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package (CERF-P) were on standby at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg to assist in case of crisis during President Barack Obama's inauguration in the nation's capital on Jan. 20.

In all, more than 500 members of the West Virginia National Guard were called to duty to support the historic 2009 Presidential inauguration. Because of its proximity to the National Capital Region, the 167th Airlift Wing was also used as a staging area for Military Police, a Mobile Aeromedical Staging Facility (MASF), an Aeromedical Evacuation Liaison Team (AELT), two Critical Care Augmentation Teams (CCATs), a Crisis Response Element (CRE), medical Blackhawk helicopters and a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) system in addition to the CERF-P.

The CERF-P's mission was to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high yield explosive incidents and assist local, state and federal agencies in time of such crisis, said 1st Sgt. Kevin Bibb, the CERF-P's operations sergeant.

The multi-faceted CERF is comprised of Soldiers from the 77th Brigade, 1257th Transportation Company and the 601st Engineer Company. Airmen from the 130th and 167th Airlift Wings provide the CERF-P's medical and the Fatality Search and Recovery Team. The West Virginia Army National Guard's Aviation Group provided air support. The Mountain State's CERF-P is one of 17 teams across the country and is specifically assigned to the D.C. area.

Having the CERF-P stage their activities at the 167th Airlift Wing allowed for the team to be on strategic standby in case of a crisis during the 2009 Inauguration. "It allows for a speedy response to the D.C. area," Bibb said.

Whether providing emergency, mass decontamination, medical services or casualty search and extraction, the CERFP is well-trained in its mission, said Col. Edward A. Muth, commander of the 77th Brigade.

"We have the right tools in the toolbox and are close by" if needed to respond to an emergency, Muth said. Adding: "We are well trained in this specialized mission."

Although ready to convoy to the nation's capital at a moment's notice during the inaugural festivities, Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the CERF-P never received the fateful call. Instead they spent much of their time training and rehearsing for a mission that never came.

Maj. Chad C. Board, services flight commander for the Fatality Search & Recovery Team based at the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, said the 11 members of the FSRT crew's main objective is to go and recover deceased personnel and transport the remains to be decontaminated. Those assigned to the FSRT must undergo mortuary and Hazmat operational training.

While based at the 167th Airlift Wing, Board said the team donned Level B suits and trained to task. "We are preparing for the real thing," he said. Board said the FSRT was created because of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as Hurricane Katrina. He said there are 17 FSRTs in National Guard units across the country. He said the FSRT assigned to the Mountain State is one of 10 lead units in the nation.

Dr. (Col.) Sidney B. Jackson, commander of the 130th Airlift Wing's Medical Group and a flight surgeon for the West Virginia Air National Guard, lauded the training given to those assigned to provide emergency medical services.

"All of our medical group are training up to CERF-P medical qualifications," Dr. Jackson said. He said the mission of the EMTs and nurses was to "preserve life, save lives and get through the crisis."