When a train derails in downtown Cheyenne and several of the cars carrying chlorine gas begin to leak, it could warrant a Wyoming National Guard activation. This activation would require members of the WyNG who are employed as full-time teachers, police officers, nurses and numerous other occupations, to be placed on state active duty, don their military uniform, and come to the aid of Wyoming if requested by the Governor’s Office through the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security.
This scenario played out July 13-16, during annual training for the Wyoming National Guard joint staff. The goal of the training was to prepare the Wyoming Army National Guard Joint Task Force Rider from 94th Troop Command, based out of Laramie, Wyoming, to in-process and assume command and control operations for the military personnel who would provide security assistance and medical evacuation in downtown Cheyenne.
To maximize the training effectiveness, the joint staff invited the Joint Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration team from the 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard, to observe and learn their procedures and to help with their own in-processing of airmen and soldiers.
“The big ticket for us is to take a look at the Army’s approach to handling their JRSOI process and the way they are exercising that, which helps shape what we’ll be doing,” said Senior Master Sgt. Richard Avery, logistics plans superintendent for the 153rd. Avery and his team have experience with both real-world and exercise state activations that have included flooding and security assistance.
During the exercise, 19 soldiers were processed from JTF Rider, but the number can change to include augmenting with airmen if the mission dictates.
“JTF Rider is designed to be a command and control element,” said Lt. Col. Dane Rodgers, training officer for the joint staff. “They are supposed to be able to provide command and control for up to three to five companies.”
Rodgers mentioned several scenarios when a JTF might be called up to exercise authority and direction to the units on the ground.
“One example is if we had multiple floods throughout the state of Wyoming. If we have three to five of our [rapid action teams] we would call up that JTF to manage all of the command and control. They are kind of an intermediary between the joint staff and all those teams.” Rodgers said a large hazardous material or terrorist incident could also be a reason to call up a JTF and if soldiers or airmen were called in from other states to assist, they would also fall under the authority and direction of the JTF.
After the JTF Rider was processed through JRSOI, they were “deployed” to their location to assist with command and control as needed. For this scenario, the need was to cordon off Cheyenne roads to prevent others from entering affected areas and to medevac those in need. The task force assigned members from different departments such as logistics, plans and Intelligence, to work with the incident commander, Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, and other city, state and county officials and departments to do this safely and efficiently.
Once the task force was assembled and on scene, the headquarters staff began sending exercise injects that asked for various guard support to civil authorities and compelled the team to work through how they would route and staff such support.
Staff Sgt. Michael Petruso, assistant operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge for JTF Rider, shared an example of how this works.
“Recently we had a [quick reaction force] mission that got sent from higher [headquarters] for an overlay of the scene. So I got ahold of [logistics], let them know what equipment they’ll need, which involved aviation for the mission.” Petruso, from Laramie, has been part of the task force for three years.
“Today I just wanted to get a good hands-on feel of what a railroad mission was going to be like. If it ever does happen, now I’ll know what I need to do,” he said.
JTF Rider is composed of varying jobs, or Military Occupation Specialties, which gives it the ability and functionality to support local and national efforts according to Maj. Justin Sax, JTF Rider commander. He also explained why these exercises are so important.
“They allow us to rehearse our mission readiness and preparation for our assumption of the task force to support the state or national disaster response,” he said.
When the exercise was over JTF Rider and Joint Force Headquarters staff regrouped and JTF Rider was evaluated on their mission set as well as lessons learned.
The Wyoming Military Department conducts these types of exercises regularly so when a disaster does occur, they will have practiced for it and will be ready to assist as quickly and safely as possible.