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Rubble about a Cause

Tech. Sgt. Eliza Villa and Master Sgt. Angelina Perez, 144th Medical Group prepare to transport a patient during a Homeland Response Force exercise in Phoenix, Ariz.  The 36-hour exercise tested the team's ability to respond to an emergency and maintain a field hospital. The four state exercise involved emergency response units from California, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. David J. Loeffler)

Tech. Sgt. Eliza Villa and Master Sgt. Angelina Perez, 144th Medical Group prepare to transport a patient during a Homeland Response Force exercise in Phoenix, Ariz. The 36-hour exercise tested the team's ability to respond to an emergency and maintain a field hospital. The four state exercise involved emergency response units from California, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. David J. Loeffler)

Members of the 144th Medical Group take part in specialized training during a Homeland Response Force exercise in Phoenix, Ariz. on November 5, 2011.  Capt. Veronica Repp, 144th Medical Group, helps treat a patient in triage. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. David J. Loeffler)

Members of the 144th Medical Group take part in specialized training during a Homeland Response Force exercise in Phoenix, Ariz. on November 5, 2011. Capt. Veronica Repp, 144th Medical Group, helps treat a patient in triage. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. David J. Loeffler)

Two search and rescue members prepare to take a wounded victim from a rubble pile as part of a 36-hour specialized training Homeland Response Force exercise in Phoenix, Ariz. on November 5, 2011. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. David J. Loeffler)

Two search and rescue members prepare to take a wounded victim from a rubble pile as part of a 36-hour specialized training Homeland Response Force exercise in Phoenix, Ariz. on November 5, 2011. (USAF photo by Master Sgt. David J. Loeffler)

Phoenix, Arizona -- Amidst thousands of tons of concrete chunks, twisted wire and precariously perched automobiles members of the 144th Fighter Wing jumped into action when they were faced with an exercise simulating the detonation of a 10 Kiloton dirty bomb in downtown Phoenix, Ariz.

The California Homeland Respond Force (formerly known as CERFP) consists of a joint team of Air and Army National Guard personnel who are specially trained to respond to natural and manmade disasters. California Guardsmen joined forces with guardsmen from Colorado and Arizona to take part in Vigilant Guard, a 36-hour exercise designed to test the military-members abilities to respond to a disaster.

"Vigilant Guard is a multi-state, multi-agency FEMA level exercise and we are coordinating a multi- state response to a simulated disaster in Phoenix," said Col. David Walton, California Homeland Response Force, medical commander. "We are intermingling with Arizona and Colorado on a 36-hour exercise, we're doing work schedules and making sure were able to go for the straight 36 hours treating patients and handling their casualties."

The multi event training tested the teams in a variety of exercises and involved civilian first responders to work hand in hand with National Guardsmen.

"Yesterday, we had a patient that was caught up in the top of the rubble pile in a vehicle," said Master Sgt. Angie Perez, 144th Medical Group. "We secured the vehicle, treated the patient and mobilized the patient to triage. I think this is good training. Above all, anytime you get to practice this way, it's going to give you an experience and get you ready for real world experiences. A lot of the patients and the wounds we see are typically stuff we would see in the real world. We gain a little bit more knowledge and dial it in just a little more each time."

The teams were challenged by the weather, long hours and other obstacles.
"Transporting the patient through the tunnel was a little bit rough," said Senior Airman David Padilla, 144th Medical Group. "We were slowly taking the patient out, little by little, foot by foot. The big issue was clearing the rocks. There were a lot of obstacles in the way, a lot of obstructions and the space was very limited in certain areas so the primary objective was clearing out those areas, the Army did a great job of doing that and my job was monitoring the patient, making sure he was stabilized and treating any injuries on the spot."

The Homeland Response Force brings Air and Army National Guardsmen together into a joint team with a very specialized function.

"The Homeland's Response Force is a group whose training deals with a lot of natural disaster or Homeland Response disasters," said Tech. Sgt. Eliza Villa, 144th Medical Group. "It could be fire, flood, earthquakes, storms, or in this case we are doing a scenario where an improvised explosive devise went off. The training we get here is very realistic. These little things that you don't think about and these tight spaces you have to be in with all of your equipment. All of those things, really, for us to have to do it, really brings home the training. It's going to help a lot and I think we are going to be ready to take on any disaster that comes our way."