Nebraska CERFP conducts readiness exercise

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-MEAD, Neb. — A wide open field lay next to some abandoned and damaged buildings at the Nebraska National Guard’s Mead training site. Once the command was given for the exercise to begin, trucks and trailers swarmed into the field with dozens of Air and Army National Guard members setting up equipment, donning protective suits and erecting tents. The field soon became a temporary mobile medical facility for the Nebraska National Guard Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) team.

“We were exercising our capabilities as a complete CERFP unit, Army and Air, setting up our footprint,” said Lt. Col. Michael Chatterson, 155th Air Refueling Wing optometrist and serves as the CERFP detachment commander. “We have a lot of new providers, so being able to give them that experience with trauma situations gives them a real world look.”

Airmen and Soldiers of the Nebraska National Guard CERF conducted an exercise Nov. 17 - 18, 2021, that tested their ability to move in a convoy and quickly set up and operate a field medical facility in a remote location.

The exercise simulated a building explosion collapse with sarin gas. This scenario helped train members so they are ready in the event of any disaster that may possibly occur in Nebraska or in nearby regions.

Chatterson said how it was good to get out and do the exercise even though it may be routine to some longtime members of the CERFP.

“Our nurses are our experienced core,” Chatterson said. “Pretty much everybody, but our nurses and medical command control are new, so this opportunity was very valuable and educational.”

One of the many new faces was Airman 1st Class Brianna Hennigan, a CERFP medical tech. She talked about her role and what she learned from her first exercise.

“I was in the tech tent where we check vitals, make sure people are hydrated, so they’re ready to get back to their jobs in the field,” Hennigan said. “The biggest learning curve was knowing the whole process, setting stuff up and making sure everything was up to standard .”

Toward that afternoon, Chatterson expressed to the guardsman the importance of training and how that can have an impact in real world situation such as the pandemic and how the Nebraska National Guard responded to their community.

“Covid is where we’ve really been helpful by going out into the smaller communities in central and western Nebraska,” Chatterson said. “We could go and augment the medical professionals and first responders and help them with our manpower.”

The exercise helped prepare teams for future incidents and was an overall success according to Maj. Angela Ling, nurse practitioner and CERFP senior medical provider and treatment team officer in charge.

“We have a lot of new members on the team and this specific exercise allowed for time to teach and learn,” Ling said. “We have had a near 100% provider turnover since the previous exercise, so this exercise was paramount for them to learn what CERFP is all about and be ready to respond.”