Mock disaster prepares National Guard for real thing - abc27 WHTM

Mock disaster prepares National Guard for real thing

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When disaster strikes here at home, the Pennsylvania National Guard often answers the call for help.

To make sure they are prepared, soldiers go through intense training.

On Wednesday at Fort Indiantown Gap, a field was cordoned off by caution tape. Men and women in walked around in hazmat suits, while other men and women screamed for help.

It looked like the scene of a massive disaster, and it was supposed to. But was actually a simulated scenario with a building collapse and chemically contaminated victims.

When a disaster is that big, local, state, and national agencies have to work together.

"We have a saying in the emergency response rescue business," said Glenn Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. "In the middle of a disaster is not the time you exchange business cards. You need to to that before the disaster happens."

"We'll make it as realistic and tough as we possibly can so when we have to do it for real we know how to react to it," said Major General Wesley Craig, Adjutant General of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

The fake scene was created, complete with paid actors who have Hollywood grade makeup. It teaches the soldiers to stay calm under pressure.

The exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap was just one of several scenarios within a larger National Guard training exercise called Vigilant Guard; one of the largest the country has ever seen.

The large planes flying over the Midstate during the past week were all a part of the exercise. Two-thousand National Guard members from six states were there.

One-thousand role players also participated. Some of the role-players took off work from their regular job. Others are retired service members who like to participate in military training.

There were eight different disaster scenarios.

"While we know we have that support, you need to exercise and know their abilities before you meet them in the real world," Cannon said.

Vigilant Guard exercises are not held in response to any specific threat. They have been happening for 10 years. National Guard officials said this is by far the largest to date.

For more information on Vigilant Guard, visit http://pa.ng.mil/Documents/VG%202014_Media_DV_Final.pdf.

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