180th Medical Group part of homeland defense life-saving team

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  • By Master Sgt. Elizabeth Holliker
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The catastrophic F-4 tornado that ripped through the town of Ravenna Falls, Ohio in Aug. left six members of the 180th Fighter Wing Medical Group sifting through the rubble left in its wake. Though the scene was horrific, it was only a scenario at Camp Ravenna's Joint Military Training Center. The scenario was part of the week-long Operation Talon Shield training exercise hosted by Camp Ravenna Aug. 3-9. This joint training mission was designed to exercise military and civilian response and life-saving capabilities after a disaster.

The six-man team, providing medical triage and search and extraction support, make up part of Ohio's larger Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear or High-Yield Explosives Emergency Response Force Package, or CERFP. The package, designed by the National Guard Bureau, is comprised of Soldiers and Airmen from select Army and Air National Guard units in Ohio. Army units provide the engineering support while the Air units bring the medical capabilities.

Throughout the week-long exercise, the 180th medical team worked side-by-side with about 1,500 other Soldiers, Airmen and local civilian emergency response teams rescue, extract, decontaminate and treat the victims of the tornado.

"My favorite part of the training is the camaraderie that is built between the Air Force and the Army," said Staff Sgt. Chris Ice, an aerospace medical technician at the 180th Fighter Wing. "It shows two different forces with different jobs can work together, with the same goal in mind, to help people."

A rubble pile, designed to enable rescue crews to navigate through confined and unstable spaces to evacuate casualties, simulates the difficulties of working and maneuvering in and around collapsed structures, often while wearing full chemical protection gear. This gear, called Tyvex suits, are specially designed to keep chemicals from absorbing into the skin.

"We are all trained in collapsed structure and confined space extraction," said 2nd Lt. Janeen Przysiecki, a clinical nurse officer for the wing. "We have all been HAZMAT trained and RIG certified."

Response International Group, or RIG, is a required course for CERFP personnel where they are taught confined space rescue, repelling, ropes and heavy machine operation.

Ohio's CERFP team serves the Federal Emergency Management Agency's region five, supporting Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The team's mission is to provide immediate response to the governor in searching disaster sites, rescuing casualties, decontaminating them, performing medical triage and initial treatment to stabilize them for transport to nearby medical facilities.

The 180th joined the Ohio team in 2007, completing five weeks of initial training, earning all necessary certifications. The team continues to participate in additional training exercises each year, totaling about two weeks each year.

"Although it is just training, we all take great pride in the fact that we could be called at a moment's notice to help save lives on such a large scale," said Przysiecki. "It's an Air Force medic's dream to be used in this scenario."

This year, the National Guard Bureau, in collaboration with the Department of Defense and the states has created a larger response organization called the Homeland Response Force. Ohio, along with Washington state., has been selected as the first two teams to stand up the first of 10 future HRFs.

The June press release announcing the creation of the HRF stated that the HRFs will allow the DoD a robust ability to respond to a domestic CBRNE incidents while recognizing the primary role that the governors play in controlling the response to incidents that occur in their states.

"CERFP is a mission set that is tied directly to our minuteman heritage," said Col. Mark E. Bartman, 180th Fighter Wing commander. "As members of the National Guard we must be prepared to meet the needs of our citizens and heed the call of our state commander in chief - the governor, when needed anywhere, anytime."

180th team members include Maj. Ted Liszeski, 2nd Lt. Janeen Przysiecki, Staff Sgt. Chris Ice, Staff Sgt. Amber Wonderly, Senior Airman Cassandra Brockway, and Senior Airman Cody Gomez.
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