News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 14, 2012

Guard unit flies off to training

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — With the front nose of the giant C-5 Galaxy open, a medical element of the 181st Intelligence Wing backed pickup trucks and material-laden trailers into the belly of the Air Force’s largest cargo jet.

Five vehicles and trailers were loaded Friday at Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field along with medical personnel and first responders. A sixth vehicle and trailer will be loaded today on a smaller C-17 cargo jet.

In all, 37 medical personnel and nine first responders of the medical element of the 19th Certified Emergency Response Force Package will be participating in “Joint Patriot,” a joint Indiana Army and Air National Guard training exercise at Volk Field, Wis.

“This is our first air deployment with the CERFP,” said Col. Patricia Mook, medical group commander. “It will let us get there in a timely fashion with our equipment and it will prove that this is capable of happening any place in the United States if there is a disaster and we are needed to go to another state for support.

“We have a lot of new, young individuals and we were just validated last August, so this is the first mission where they are flying. It will be a huge learning experience for all of them.”

The Indiana Air Guard’s 19th CERFP is the Indiana National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive response force package.

 The scenario of the military exercise is a response to a terrorist dirty bomb, said Lt. Col. Robert Abbinett Jr., medical element officer-in-charge.

 A dirty bomb is a weapon that uses radioactive material with conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material. Dirty bombs are generally referred to as weapons of mass “disruption” as opposed to weapons of mass destruction, aimed at provoking widespread panic and fear of radiation, as opposed to large-scale casualties.

Prior to boarding the C-5, National Guard members went through a deployment line in a hanger, where guard members ensure those being deployed have wills, dog tags, medical records and medical items.

Col. John Puckett, executive officer of the 181st Intelligence Wing, said the Joint Patriot exercise “is a real opportunity for jointness. There are four different elements, with three of those staffed by Army, but the air side of it truly is the medical side. It is an opportunity to get in there and do this joint operation and show the relevancy of the Air Guard,” Puckett said.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.