Texas National Guard members obtain emergency management recertification

Members of the Texas National Guard's Joint Task Force 136 recently received recertification to continue in their role as the Homeland Response Force, the Guard said on Monday.

More than 800 members of the joint task force trained during a weeklong external evaluation at Camp Gruber, Okla. Evaluators tested the Guard members on their interagency cooperation, asset management and emergency response capabilities during prolonged periods of operation.

The exercise included a series of mass casualty scenarios that tested the task force's personnel in real-time scenarios.

"The (evaluation) is an attempt and a time for us to actually test the experiences in what these guys have been training on all year," Army Maj. Gen. Len Smith, the commander of the Texas Army National Guard, said. "As the evaluation part of it goes, it's a great opportunity for them to figure out what they do and don't know."

The simulated incidents included hazardous materials explosions, train derailments and the contamination of populated areas. The challenges of the scenarios were made more difficult by the week's unusually cold temperatures.

"Even though we've had bad weather, these guys are doing a fantastic job," Army Col. Patrick Hamilton, the domestic operations commander for the Texas National Guard, said. "The soldiers are motivated; the airmen are motivated. The support from Camp Gruber is fantastic."

The recertification validates the task force for another three years of regional support in the event of disaster.

The Homeland Response Force serves the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Region VI, which includes Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Texas. The HRF responds to large scale natural or man-made disasters to support federal, state and local first responders.