Huddled around a taped outline of Missouri, Lt. Col. Terri Oswald (standing center), commander of the 311th Brigade Support Battalion, briefs Col. William A. Ward (seated far left), commander of the 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, during a rehearsal of concept drill at Fort Leonard Wood for the large-scale earthquake exercise known as Vigilant Guard. The actual event will take place in November and will test the readiness of the Missouri Guard along with its civilian, military and federal partners. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)
By Jennifer Archdekin
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - The Missouri National Guard continues to prepare for the national-level earthquake exercise known as Vigilant Guard this November. The training scenario, based on a catastrophic earthquake along the New Madrid fault line in southeast Missouri, will test the readiness of the Missouri Guard along with its civilian, military and federal partners.
The 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, headquartered in Kansas City, along with its subordinate units, will play a large role in the drill. In the event such a disaster did occur, the brigade would likely be tapped to respond.
Recently about 75 Guardsmen from across the state conducted a rehearsal of concept, or ROC, drill at Fort Leonard Wood to test those waters. Col. William A. Ward, brigade commander, met with representatives from each of his units to run through their current plan to be executed this fall.
"It allows us to go through each phase of the exercise to make sure we cover down on everything that needs to happen," said Ward. "From my perspective, it also provides a forum to ensure all commanders understand the intent of the operation and are working towards the same end state. Finally, it allows us to work out the synchronization of the operation, who's doing what to who and when."
The 110th MEB oversees subordinate units that have a variety of resources to be utilized in both the upcoming exercise and in a real-world emergency. Skill sets such as communications, security, maintenance, food, fuel and transportation are vital components when recovering from such a disaster.
- 311th Brigade Support Battalion headquartered in Lexington
- 1-129th Field Artillery headquartered in Maryville
- 1-138th Infantry Regiment headquartered in Kansas City
- 135th Signal Company located in Kansas City
- 548th Transportation Company located in Trenton
- 1128th Forward Support Company located in Marshall
- 1138th Transportation Company based in St. Louis
Ward said a myriad of units, such as engineers, military police or search and rescue teams, will make their way to the impacted area to help. The 110th MEB is responsible for receiving and directing the support as it arrives.
"Our role is to make sure that all of the forces that are coming into the state to help are taken care of," said Ward. "We receive them into the state and push them on to the units responsible for command and control of the impacted areas of responsibility."
The units will come through one of three joint reception, staging, onward movement and integration sites, or JRSOI, before going on to do their missions.
"We will be logging them in and making sure they are taken care of as far as feeding, fueling and rest, and making sure they are getting to the units where they are needed."
According to Ward, the brigade's second role, and will become their primary role after the first few days, is the logistical piece. For the Vigilant Guard exercise, the 311th BSB will be positioned at Fort Leonard Wood and will supply the forces in the affected area. The field artillery units will man the JRSOI sites and continually handle the influx of troops, as there will be a constant rotation of support. Infantry units in turn will provide security to the sites. The remaining units will be used as needed to carry on their mission.
Other senior commands throughout the state will also participate in Vigilant Guard. For the 110th MEB alone, Ward estimates about 800-1,000 troops from his brigade will participate in this large-scale exercise.
Though there is no guarantee of a catastrophic earthquake along the New Madrid fault, the Missouri Guard hopes for the best while preparing for the worst. Should Missouri never see the disaster come to pass, the training is still imperative to the Guard's overall readiness.
"Every time we do one of these operations we learn something," said Ward. "Every situation is unique. There are no two disasters that are the same. What we are doing is teaching the principles that can be applied to any disaster. The things we're learning here -- the coordination, how to provide support -- can really be applied to any disaster and can be scaled to any size of disaster."
In 2011, each unit within the 110th MEB served on at least one, if not multiple, state disaster missions. In addition, the 548th TC and 1138th TC, along with several Soldiers from various units within the brigade, served on overseas deployments. The invaluable experience within the brigade further enhances the capabilities and know-how of the men and women called up to help out in what could be one of Missouri's biggest natural disasters.
"Providing support to state and civil authorities is something we do almost every year," said Ward. "If we're not trained up to respond to these type of events it's going to come back to bite us. We can utilize what we've learned here for almost any response to any kind of disaster, or we may be the unit going in helping another state which we have done, like in Katrina and others. Exercises like Vigilant Guard will help us provide better support when it's for real."
The New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811 and 1812 rank as some of the largest in U.S. history. The earthquakes' devastation has been a stark reminder for the Missouri National Guard and civilian responders to be prepared for the next one.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please visit www.moguard.com and our social media sites: www.facebook.com/Missouri.National.Guard; www.twitter.com/Missouri_NG; www.youtube.com/MoNationalGuard; www.myspace.com/missouri_ng; www.flickr.com/photos/missouriguard; www.moguard.com/blog; www.pinterest.com/monationalguard/
Huddled around a taped outline of Missouri, about 75 Missouri Guardsmen from the 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade conduct a rehearsal of concept drill at Fort Leonard Wood for the large-scale earthquake exercise known as Vigilant Guard. The actual event will take place in November and will test the readiness of the Missouri Guard along with its civilian, military and federal partners. (Photo by Jennifer Archdekin/Missouri National Guard)