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Florida Air National Guard Creates Official Medical Detachment For Domestic Operations

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Edwards assumed command of the 125th Medical Detachment 1 at the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville, Fla., on November 06, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Troy Anderson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Edwards assumed command of the 125th Medical Detachment 1 at the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville, Fla., on November 06, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Troy Anderson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Edwards assumed command of the 125th Medical Detachment 1 at the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville, Fla., on November 06, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Troy Anderson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Edwards assumed command of the 125th Medical Detachment 1 at the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville, Fla., on November 06, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Troy Anderson/Released)

Jacksonville, Fla. -- In a ceremony at the 125th Fighter Wing Nov. 6, Lt. Col. Steve Edwards assumed command of Medical Detachment-1, a newly formed unit created to provide full-time medical support for natural disasters and any chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) events.

"Having a CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) team here in Florida enables us to go take care of all hazards, from natural disasters to dirty bombs to whatever we need," said Maj. Bob Ard, medical plans and operations officer for the 125th Medical Group.  "It makes us a great asset for the governor to be able to plug into.  We can be prepared to deploy within six hours to anywhere in the state."

The CERFP is a joint operation bringing together both Army and Air National Guard specialties and personnel. The Army provides search and extraction, as well as decontamination. The Air Guard supplies medics and medical support.

Edwards described the search and rescue mission, stating that both Army and Air personnel enter an area after a disaster or attack and hunt through rubble to find victims who they can treat, triage and decontaminate from any CBRNE elements. Most recently, medics were activated to provide support during Hurricane Matthew.

Med Det-1 CERFP was officially established in September 2016, but Edwards said creating a detachment has been a long time coming.  CERFP was originally an additional duty for medical personnel, but there wasn't enough time to train to be truly effective for full-time disaster preparedness.

"There's so much training involved in getting certified, whether you're a nurse, an EMT or a physician," Edwards said. "There's extra CBRNE training that you have to get. There's extra trauma training required. You just can't do that on one drill weekend, especially when it's an additional duty."

The new detachment is located at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Florida, where the 125th Medical Group houses its equipment, supplies and training sites. This location also offers proximity to the Army CERFP members stationed there, providing greater opportunity for joint training.

Med Det-1 will provide medical personnel to support all CERFP operations in FEMA Region 4, which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Edwards said that establishing this medical attachment will allow the Florida Air National Guard to support FEMA Region 4 full-time, and provide relief for local emergency response agencies.

"People think about 9/11.  They think about Boston and the bombing that happened there.  We thought, 'What can we do in the military from a state response to help out if needed?'" Edwards said.  "We have a capability to support the local emergency response and provide assistance with search and extraction, treatment and triage, and stabilization during a large-scale disaster."

Tech. Sgt. David Harris, a noncommissioned officer in the medical maintenance element of CERFP, said establishing this detachment also means the citizens of this state - including his family - will be taken care of.

"I've worked with every single team across the nation. So I know that if something happens, they are in good hands," Harris said. "We are highly trained, highly qualified members of the Guard to carry out this training and take care of anything that we are called upon to do."