Guardsmen connect with first responders at 2014 TEMC

Members of the Texas National Guard connected with first responders, businesses and government offices last week during the 2014 Texas Emergency Management Conference.

The conference, which was rebranded as the Texas Emergency Management & Homeland Security Conference, took place on May 12-15, and continued its tradition of inviting members of the Texas National Guard to demonstrate their skills. The Guard's Joint Task Force 136 (JTF) attended the conference after achieving its second successful Homeland Response Force external evaluation.

The evaluation certified the JTF to work alongside civilian first responders during a mass casualty incident to support the effort to save lives.

"We're learning how we can better our capabilities with the civilian entities and all the other organizations throughout the state that we could potentially be working with in the case of an emergency or a natural disaster," 1st Lt. Ragnar Jamieson, the deputy communications officer for JTF's Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, said.

The guardsmen discussed what the CBRN enterprise and the Texas military forces can bring to local first responders. Lt. Col. William Phillips, the commander of the 6th Civil Support Team, said that networking with first responders was a key part of the conference.

"I handed out a lot of business cards and made a lot of really good contacts," Phillips said. "The networking part of this conference is really important. On site at the disaster is not where you want to start building the relationships, you want to have that already."

Phillips said it is important for different agencies to know each other and be familiar with each other's capabilities.

"It's like old friendships being renewed," Phillips said. "It's very important that they understand who we are and what we do and that we're here to help them, and that's really coming across."

During the conference, the guardsmen participated in discussions, breakout sessions and vendor demonstrations to increase their understanding of how their civilian counterparts operate.