CBRN VALEX Offers Preview of Future Emergency Management Training > Air Force Installation & Mission Support Center > News Article

— The future of Air Force emergency management (EM) training is taking shape in a remote Utah desert.

In August, more than 40 EM Airmen participated in a two-week Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Validation Exercise (CBRN VALEX) at the Dugway Proving Ground training event. The VALEX was designed to provide realistic wartime CBRN response training.

Experts from the Emergency Management Division of the Air Force Civil Engineering Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. developed and organized the event.

“For the past 21 years, we have had a strong focus on executing the emergency management program in support of homeland defense,” said EM Career Field Manager Chief Master Sgt. Adam Womac. “As we examine complex new threats, we know our adversaries may have or are looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) capabilities. This exercise is the foundational footprint to validate that we can be lean, light and nimble in as knowledgeable and competent CBRN specialists operating in this environment.

The 40 participants and eight cadre members, representing teams from nine major commands and the Air National Guard, spent the first week in classrooms and labs with top experts learning the chemistry and biology behind CBRN threats. .

“One of the things I love about this event is that you have scientists and subject matter experts from the chemical and biological defense enterprise,” said Col. Scott Stanford, CEO of the preparation of the AFCEC. “Some of the smartest people in the world are training our Airmen in this environment. This will pay dividends and help build their confidence in their basic skills. »

During the second week of VALEX, Airmen were able to practice what they learned in the classroom in unique training environments. From a small basement bioweapons lab to a state actor WMD facility, the training environments provided by Dugway Proving Ground immersed teams in hyper-realistic scenarios. There was even a network of underground tunnels accessible only through a hidden entrance.

“Operating in the tunnel was pretty cool,” said Staff Sergeant. Jessica Gluth, EM manager at the 496th Air Base Squadron, Morόn Air Base, Spain. “I loved seeing my airmen adapt to this type of environment. The creative thinking was born when they faced different challenges while trying to locate and identify the target.

“These are very realistic and difficult scenarios,” said Mike Connors, head of AFCEC’s emergency management division. “You have to move through a completely dark cave or walk up a mountain to hit your target. I think the Airmen showed great enthusiasm, but there were also some reality checks.

Wearing thick, mission-focused protective posture gear with desert temperatures reaching over 100 degrees took physical and mental toll on Airmen.

“It’s been difficult for them,” said the master sergeant. Rick DeLong, EM Superintendent, Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado, and VALEX Team Five lead.
“Put on that mask and work in that environment for hours on end can be tough. In this heat, you are expected to keep your cognitive ability strong enough to hit all the points and targets as you are supposed to.

In addition to classroom training and field exercises, Airmen saw demonstrations of next-generation tools and equipment that may soon be added to EM gear sets. One of the most anticipated was Spot, a robotic dog platform equipped with CBRN sensors designed to inspect potentially dangerous locations for EM airmen.
VALEX participants also tested the Austere Environmental Reconnaissance Surveillance Response Vehicle (AERS) designed to carry a four-person CBRN team and the equipment they need to approach a target.

“AERS is the way of the future,” DeLong said. “We’re able to fit all of our gear that we need to go downscale on a light and nimble platform.”

Organizing training like VALEX has not been easy for AFCEC’s EM Division.

“VALEX is the most complex exercise we’ve done as a community in the last 10 or 15 years,” Connors said. “Bringing the people, planning the scenarios and the logistics to get the equipment to the Dugway Proving Ground was a massive undertaking, but our team killed it! We had exceptional support from our Dugway partners and an incredible team of Hammer Adaptive Communications Element specialists.

Participants believe that the hours of planning have certainly paid off. Asked about the comments he heard from his team, DeLong smiled.

“The best training I’ve ever had in my career,” he said.

“It’s an amazing experience for our professional field, and I’m really excited to see where we’ll go in the future,” Gluth said.

AFCEC management is already looking to build on the success of VALEX.

“It’s the beginning, not the end,” Connors said. “We’re asking, ‘How can we do this multiple times a year and eventually expand it to Pacific Air Forces and US Air Forces Europe theaters?’ I can promise you that VALEX is here to stay.

(Editor’s note: Hazzard is the Head of the Emergency Management Operations Section within the AFCEC Preparedness Directorate)

About Irene J. O'Donnell

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