USACE, Huntsville Center Providing Drone Training for National Guard

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing training and certification to Army National Guardsmen ordered to operate in some of the direst situations Americans may ever face.

Soldiers from the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield explosive Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) recently completed the USACE Aviation Unmanned Aviation System (UAS) Basic Qualification Course March 18-22 at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

The course is a five-day, 32-hour program of instruction preparing future crewmembers to operate UASs inside the National Airspace System.

Chris Kernan, USACE Aviation Program’s acting program manager, said course topics cover Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Defense (DoD), Army, and USACE requirements.

“Our training method is derived from the U.S. Army Aviation and FAA Instructor’s Handbooks and focuses on hands-on tasks to produce mission-ready crewmembers ‘out of the gate,’” he said.

While the course is primarily focused on full-spectrum service to USACE, the course also supports the Army National Guard, Kernan said.

“A dozen CERFP Soldiers made up UAS Basic-NG Class 24-01,” he said.

“They are the first of 60 CERFP Soldiers we will train this year and represent a new Army Aviation paradigm: small UAS as an enabler for immediate CBRN incident response.”

The U.S. military domestic CBRN Response Enterprise includes National Guard units assigned to the National Guard’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams (WMD-CSTs), CERFPs, and Homeland Response Forces (HRFs). There is at least one National Guard CERFP in each of the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regions.

The National Guard CERFP is comprised of five operational elements staffed by personnel from already established guard units.

When directed by the Secretary of Defense through coordination with the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and upon consent of state governors during major or catastrophic CBRN incidents, the HRF and CERFP alerts, recalls and deploys critical command and control and life-saving capabilities within six hours.

National Guard CERFP Soldiers’ response to incidents involves deploying to sites to conduct command and control, search and extraction, mass casualty decontamination, and medical stabilization to save lives and mitigate human suffering.

The National Guard CERFP mission capabilities include incident site search of collapsed buildings and structures, conducting rescue tasks to extract trapped casualties, providing mass decontamination, performing medical triage and initial treatment to stabilize patients for transport to medical facilities by the Incident commander, and the recovery of CBRN incident fatalities.

The use of UASs in these missions is a force multiplier, as the UAS can be used to assist CERFP Soldiers in their vital yet dangerous tasks.

The National Guard is increasingly deploying and experimenting with UASs of different sizes to fit into the organization’s priorities for 2024.

Ryan Strange, USACE Aviation program training and standards lead and course instructor, said USACE integration with the National Guard Bureau is a training collaboration with deeper outcomes.

“Providing this course to our National Guard Soldiers is a testament to our commitment to excellence, unity, and shared responsibility for the protection of this nation,” Strange said.

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