Alabama Guardsmen selected to form a special group of emergency responders

Published 2:45 pm Thursday, February 10, 2011

Government leaders are calling it the premier response force in the state, and it has a local connection.

The Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High-Yield Explosive (CBRNE) and Enhanced Response Force Package (CERF-P) is turning heads.

There are currently 16 other states that have this specialized group of emergency responders; Alabama now makes 17.

The National Guard units selected for this mission include the 145th Chemical Battalion from Centreville; the 440th Chemical Company out of Clanton and Vincent; the 690th Chemical Company from Mobile; the 187th Fighter Wing and the 117 Air Refueling Wing, both out of Montgomery.

These units were selected because of their specialized nature and training in chemical and medical operations.

These specialized teams will receive extensive training in search and extraction, mass causality decontamination and medical treatment during a natural or manmade disaster. Training will take place in various locations around the country over a period of approximately eight months.

These courses will prepare soldiers and airmen to overcome numerous obstacles they may face during their missions. They are able to support any state or territory within the United States. If a disaster occurs, the CERF-P team mobilizes within a specified window of time upon alert.

“I am really looking forward to this training and am glad to accept this mission,” said Capt. Robert O’Brien, Alabama CERF-P Operations Officer. “The fact that Alabama has been selected for this training and that I get to use my knowledge as a chemical operations officer is awesome.”

Currently, there are approximately 200 members of the Alabama Army Guard and Air Guard collectively training for the elite team. The CERF-P team is one of two joint training operations in the state.

“I am proud to be able to work alongside the Air Guard,” said O’Brien.

The training process will culminate with a five-day validation and certification process done by the Joint Interagency Training and Education Center (JITEC), a division of homeland security. The validation process will take place some time in September, at which point the unit will be fully mission ready.