The Indiana National Guard is training for a new mission.
Come October, it will be responsible for operating a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP).
"These soldiers will be prepared to respond in the event of an incident of consequence," said Staff Sgt. Les Newport.
Capabilities include searching damaged buildings for survivors, retrieving trapped casualties, providing decontamination, and performing medical triage and initial treatment of patients before transport to medical facilities in a large-scale catastrophe.
"This is going to be an enduring mission for the Indiana National Guard," said Newport, adding that this type of program is not exclusive to Indiana.
Various units are charged with specific functions. The Indiana Army National Guard Engineering Company will control the search and extraction element. The decontamination process is assigned to the Indiana Army National Guard Chemical Company, and the Indiana Air National Guard Medical Group will handle medical care.
Newport says the Indiana National Guard can be deployed anywhere, not just in the state. There were 2,500 Hoosier guardsmen dispatched to the Gulf Coast within a week of Hurricane Katrina striking the region.
"The National Guard can be activated at the state level by the governor or it can be activated by the Department of Defense for regional, national, or even international (events)," Newport said.
Units, including those from other states, are currently undergoing a major exercise related to CERFP at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville. The mission is scheduled to be in place by October and continue indefinitely.
"The National Guard are the first military responders," Newport said. "We have had a significant increase in expectations. I think everyone has since 9/11. We are in many ways right at the front of the federal response to an incident. So this is very significant, and something we think about all the time."