More than 110 California National Guard soldiers conducted their annual training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness this summer, honing their skills to better perform their Title 32 missions.
Under Title 32, National Guard soldiers and airmen can be called to service by their governors to support a state response. And, as state responders, National Guard troops’ training at the CDP is fully funded by the Department of Homeland Security.
The soldiers all spent two weeks training at the CDP, taking the Hazardous Materials Technician for CBRNE Incidents (HT) one week and the Emergency Responder Hazardous Materials Technician for CBRNE Incidents (ERHM) the other.
HT is a demanding five-day course that challenges the hazardous materials technician with an extensive hands-on training experience. The technician will demonstrate learned skills in response actions to a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) weapons of mass destruction incident in both the Center’s outdoor Northville training complex and nation’s only toxic chemical training facility (chemical and biological materials) dedicated solely to training the nation’s emergency responders.
ERHM is also a five-day course. It provides training based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards for hazardous materials (HAZMAT) training. Participants receive hands-on training in identifying HAZMAT, using advanced surveying and monitoring equipment, selecting and using the appropriate level of personal protective equipment (PPE), and performing decontamination procedures. As an added benefit, graduates of the ERHM class are afforded the opportunity to take the Alabama Pro-Board certification exam for HazMat Technician certification.
The soldiers are all from the 140th Chemical Company or the 149th Chemical Company. Aside from being assigned to the same branch, the two companies have very different missions.
The 140th Chemical Company falls under the 224th Special Troops Battalion, 224th Sustainment Brigade, based in Long Beach, Calif. The company’s Title 32 mission is to provide mass decontamination capability and conduct civil support operations in order to support civil and military authorities, according to Capt. Christopher Schoenwandt, the 140th Chemical Company Commander.
“I had no idea what to expect. I have only heard good things about it from soldiers that have been to the CDP in the prior years. But after training at the CDP for two weeks it had exceeded my expectations when it came to training,” said 2nd Lt. Eric Kang, of Los Angeles, who trained at the CDP in July. “The classes went beyond the basic HAZMAT knowledge and provided in-depth information on the procedures of HAZMAT incidents and awareness. It is the best HAZMAT training you can receive.”
Pfc. Oren Shaw, who is also assigned to the 140th, attended CDP training this summer.
“I went into these courses hoping and expecting to gain expert-level knowledge on the matters involving hazardous materials incidents… and I believe we received just that,” Shaw said. “I was surprised at how much hands-on time we actually did.”
The 224th Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Noland Flores, and the battalion’s senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Roddrick Pullen, flew from California to visit their soldiers and tour the CDP while their soldiers were training at the Center in July.
“Obviously, this is first-class training,” Flores said. “It would be hard to replicate this level of specialized training in California.”
The 149th Chemical Company has a slightly different mission. The 149th falls under the 579th Engineer Battalion, 49th Military Police Brigade based in Fairfield, Calif. The 149th is part of a California National Guard CERFP Team. CERF-P stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosives (CBRNE) enhanced response force packages. The CERFPs locate and extract victims from a contaminated environment, perform mass patient/casualty decontamination, and provide treatment as necessary to stabilize patients for evacuation.
CERFP teams are specially trained to respond to a weapons-of-mass-destruction incident, according to the 2009 U.S. Army Posture Statement. The teams must be ready to deploy within six hours of notification. The Army National Guard chemical company – in this case the 149th – has the decontamination element of the CERFP mission. All of the units that serve as part of the teams maintain their original missions but receive additional training and equipment that build on their existing skills to accomplish the CERFP mission. California is one of 17 states that have CERFP teams.
“The CDP provides my unit with the all-hazards training that meets our training requirements and goes above and beyond by exposing my soldiers to live-agent training environments and showing them best practices from experienced professionals,” said 149th Chemical Company Commander, 1st Lt. Robert Allen.
“The no-cost training actually saves the California Guard more money than a home-station annual training event,” Allen said. “The CDP flew, housed, fed and transported my soldiers for their entire stay. The California National Guard paid the soldiers’ wages; every other expense was covered. The CDP truly cares about training our state-level responders.”
CDP training is fully funded for National Guard soldiers and airmen under Title 32. Just like state, local and tribal responders, their travel, lodging and meals are fully funded by the Department of Homeland Security. For more information on HT, ERHM and other upcoming CDP training, go to http://cdp.dhs.gov.
“It was a great experience. I am definitely recommending this course and this school to other municipalities and agencies,” Shaw said. “The CDP has a lot of great information to offer. As America’s first responders, it’s important that we all learn as much as we can these days.”