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Colorado National Guard trains for natural disasters

BUCKELY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Colorado National Guard members train on a Boy Scout who volunteered to be a part of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package, or CERFP, training that was held the week of Aug. 28 here. This volunteer program was set up when Colorado's CERFP realized that during disasters people who wanted to volunteer their help did not have the proper training. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jessi Stone)

BUCKELY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Colorado National Guard members train on a Boy Scout who volunteered to be a part of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package, or CERFP, training that was held the week of Aug. 28 here. This volunteer program was set up when Colorado's CERFP realized that during disasters people who wanted to volunteer their help did not have the proper training. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jessi Stone)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- From behind the glass doors they could hear the moans as they tested the entry for safety.

The wounded were pleading for them, crying out in pain to their rescuers in gray plastic suits and face obscuring masks.

As they opened the door, they set to work quickly, evaluating the wounded and loading them onto yellow sleds to be whisked to medical attention.

The scene was one of the concluding acts of a week of intense training for Colorado National Guard Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package volunteers, or CERFP, that took place the week of Aug. 28.

Local Boy Scouts donned Halloween-esque fake wounds to play the roll of catastrophe victims to give the situation a more realistic appearance.

Colorado's CERFP set up the volunteer program after realizing that during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina many Soldiers wanted to volunteer to help, but few were trained enough to do much more than stand guard, said Army Chief Warrant Officer Troy Skaggs, from the Colorado National Guard.

A week beforehand, many of the volunteer Soldiers started the training program with only a basic knowledge of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical operations.

"They've gone from nothing to something," Chief Skaggs said.

Several local and federal agencies were there to evaluate the Soldiers as they worked, which helped them understand how far they had come more than anything, said Army Maj. Robert Coon, from the Colorado National Guard.

"We still have a few kinks to work out," he said. "But I am very pleased."

He said he was very proud at how far all of the volunteers had come.

"Everyone out here is fired up to do this training," Major Coon said.

Soldiers raved about what a good job the Boy Scouts had done acting in the situation.

"I like that they actually had injuries," said Army Spc. Ryan Teter, from the Colorado Army National Guard, who remembered the specific fake wounds he liked best.

In previous training exercises they worked with dummies and other Soldiers who simply lay on the ground pretending to be wounded.

All of the Boy Scouts were excited about the event as well, busily chatting about how fun it had been to see how disaster response worked.

"I thought it was really fun," said 12-year-old Daniel Ledbetter. "If this was real I would feel really safe."

The reality of the situation was vital to making the week's training come together, said Army Sgt. Jeremy Waters, one of the CERFP volunteers from the Colorado National Guard.

He said he didn't expect that many children.

Feeling overwhelmed in the training made it sink home how similar disasters would be, he said.

"If you don't treat it like a real situation here in training, you won't be ready for the real thing," he said."

Sergeant Waters volunteered for the mission because he said so many people wanted to be more involved after 9-11 and the Oklahoma City bombing, but so few had enough training. He said he wanted to know what else he could do to help.

"I think this training is great," Sergeant Waters said. "What an opportunity to go out there and save lives."

Army Sgt. DJ Eicher, a Colorado National Guard medic who volunteered with the CERFP mission agreed. "This is something we should have been doing a long time ago," he said. "It's the Guard's mission."

Everyone who has volunteered so far really believes in the mission, said Chief Skaggs, but the Colorado CERFP is still looking for more volunteers. "We will continue this level of training until we get it perfect," he said.

People who are interested in volunteering for CERFP training, may contact Chief Skaggs at 720-847-8419.
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