Maine guardsmen join NH, RI for regional domestic response training

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The New England CERFP branding, as depicted on one of many equipment trailers used by various units.

JOINT BASE CAPE COD (08/23/2023) (readMedia)-- Twenty-five Maine soldiers and airmen joined over 150 fellow guardsmen from New Hampshire and Rhode Island Aug. 12-18, 2023, for a training and evaluation exercise of the New England CERFP (pronounced "surf-pee"), a regional National Guard response team designed to assist first responders during various large-scale emergencies.

CERFP stands for 'CBRN enhanced response force package,' and CBRN stands for 'chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear.' The package is an additional mission set on top of what units are primarily trained and equipped to do in a combat environment. The CERFP mission is one example of Air and Army National Guard elements working together jointly as part of what the military calls defense support to civil authorities, or DSCA ("disk-uh").

The package consists of six elements: command and control, search and extraction, decontamination, medical, fatality search and recovery, and a communications team. Maine is primarily responsible for the command and communication elements.

The scenario for the final test on evaluation day centered around a simulated ten kiloton nuclear detonation in a New England city. Over 350 simulated casualties were extracted from building rubble and processed through decontamination, triage, and recovery stations.

"The New England CERFP received a 'T' for 100% of all collective performance tasks for all elements," said Lt. Col. Kevin Kelley, commander of Maine's 521st Troop Command.

A 'T' rating indicates the unit is fully trained on that particular task. Kelley also reported that the exercise director and lead evaluator shared that the current New England team is only the second unit he has seen achieve a 100% in the past ten years of the director's conducting similar evaluations.

"The CERFP mission is a critical one, and really embodies what the National Guard is all about – being 'Always Ready' to render aid to our civilian neighbors," said Brig. Gen. Dean Preston, commander of the Maine Army National Guard, during a site visit. "Every time they get together, this New England team gets it done. The faces have changed, but their record of success does not. This group has a lot to be proud of."

Preston recognized five soldiers and airmen for excellence and presented each with a command coin.

Nationwide, there are 27 CERFPs, all composed of regional Air and Army National Guard personnel who perform additional annual training beyond the traditional two weeks a year focused on the federal wartime mission. The New England CERFP, which serves FEMA Region 1, can assemble within six hours of an official request and an advance party can be on scene within four hours.


Maine National Guard photos by Maj. Carl Lamb / Released