FT. EUSTIS, Va. (WAVY) - The Joint Task Force Civil Support Team at Fort Eustis is preparing for a catastrophe as big as Monday's tornado in Oklahoma.
The task force is a highly specialized group -- the only group of its kind in the U.S. -- and is conducting a four-day, large-scale disaster-response exercise at Fort AP Hill near Fredericksburg. And WAVY.com's Art Kohn is with them until Thursday.
The scenario: a plane carrying Anthrax has crashed just outside of Atlanta, and on top of that, two hurricanes are approaching. Georgia has requested federal assistance -- and that's where the JTF-CS team steps in.
The team will work with several agencies and ultimately evaluate the overall response capabilities to multiple catastrophic events in major metropolitan areas involving a bio agent, according to Michael Brown with the JTF-CS Team.
Establishing communications and command within 36 hours is critical to the overall mission in this exercise.
"We need to put the right resources, the right people, at the right place to save as many lives as possible," said General Jeff Mathis, JTFCS Commander.
Many lives are in the balance if this group is mobilized.
"Our main mission focus is biological, radiological nuclear response," said Colonel Ulysses Miramontes, Operations Director.
"Those events are like the truly bad day in America, and we are the only joint task force that's organized to do that," Mathis said.
Although the Joint Task Force is an agency of the Department of Defense, they are only activated when called upon by the highest state authority.
"It's really only based upon the the Governor's request and FEMA asking the Department of Defense to provide specific assets to deploy," Mathis said.
Program Director Harold "Richie" Richardson told WAVY.com that "What we have to do is figure out how to take the local, the state, the ah, FEMA's common operational picture and try to get it all into one picture."
The disaster drill is focused solely on logistics and will end Thursday.
The exercise, called "Sudden Response 13," is the prelude to an even larger exercise in Indiana this summer called "Operation Vibrant Response 13." That exercise will include the task force plus 88 other units from across the nation.
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