Joint Task Force Civil Support: Supporting the Civil Authorities in the Event of a CBRN Incident Anywhere in the United States

By Mr. Paul Noel, Deputy Director of Public Affairs at Joint Task Force Civil Support

NAVAL SUPPORT FACILITY INDIAN HEAD, Md. (Nov. 12, 2020) U.S. Army Lt. Col. Tiffany Dills, assigned to Joint Task Force Civil Support, breaks through concrete using a jackhammer during chemical, biological incident reaction force training at Naval Support Facility Indian Head, Stump Neck Annex, Md. Nov. 12. This training was conducted to provide education and training for new JTF-CS personnel to shape and set conditions for interagency, response forces, and planners through support, training, and engagements. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lehman/Released)

Joint Task Force Civil Support is a United States Northern Command headquarters organization based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. The headquarters maintains a state of constant training and readiness to prepare to deploy with no notice to support civil authorities to save lives, mitigate human suffering and prevent further injury in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) event anywhere in the United States.

JTF-CS is the only organization which focuses full time on rapidly deploying and mission command of military forces to support civilian authorities – anywhere and anytime. The command was established through a Presidential Order on Sept. 13, 1999 in response to a rise in worldwide terrorist activity and a growing threat of weapons of mass destruction.

Today, JTF-CS has evolved to respond to any catastrophic event at a moment’s notice when requested.

The task force recently answered the call to support FEMA by leading Department of Defense medical units and assisting with mortuary affairs as part of the U.S. federal response to the COVID-19 outbreak in New York and New Jersey.

From March 24, 2020 through June 6, 2020, JTF-CS provided a forward command element in New York to conduct command and control operations of Task Force New York/New Jersey. The task force included 2,500 medical professionals, which included doctors, nurses, and medical administrative personnel from across the country. These medical professionals worked to help ease the burden on the New York and New Jersey hospital systems. The task force provided medical support to alternate care facilities at the Javits New York Medical Station (JNYMS), the Edison Field Medical Station, and the Atlantic City Conference Center Medical Station in New Jersey. It also directly provided medical staff support to 10 New York City and three New Jersey hospitals, and provided mortuary affairs support in New York.

Army Pvt. 1st Class Jett Soungpradith, assigned to the 9th Hospital Center, calibrates an IV machine in a mobile workstation at Javits New York Medical Station, April 13, 2020. In support of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response, U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Barry Riley/RLEASED)

“Like the cavalry, the task force members responded rapidly from across the country to help Americans in need,” said Michael “Casey” Collins, JTF-CS deputy commander. “In addition to the 30 people in the forward command element, the remaining 110 people who were part of the Task Force New York/New Jersey team at Fort Eustis did the heavy lifting to provide nearly all the information, planning, and briefing support to make sure the right people and supplies got to the right places.” He added the entire command was part of the combined effort to help relieve the overburdened hospital systems in New York and New Jersey. The assistance was in support of U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Army North at the request of FEMA, the lead federal agency.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Van, JTF-CS commanding general, said the task force is designed to bring the necessary Defense CBRN Response Force (DCRF) units together to provide the right force, the right response, and the right expertise for CBRN or any other catastrophic event.

“We are ready to return, either to New York or wherever the country needs us,” Van said. “Within 24 hours, JTF-CS and the DCRF can deploy and begin employment of our five core capabilities to support any Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) request.”

The five core capabilities of JTF-CS are CBRN identification and detection, technical and non-technical search and extraction, mass casualty and non-casualty decontamination, medical triage and stabilization, and air and ground evacuation. To meet these core requirements JTF-CS and its DCRF units have one of the more rigorous training programs in the military. For instance, as the nation’s only standing joint headquarters responsible for commanding the DCRF, JTF-CS assists with the certification of more than 4,000 federal military responders annually.

Soldiers with the 172nd Hazard Response Company from Fort Riley, Kansas, run a decontamination site Aug. 25, 2016 at Fort Hood, Texas during Exercise Sudden Response 16. The weeklong exercise was a key training event for the 172nd HR Co. and various other units within Joint Task Force Civil Support, a rapidly deployable force of more than 5,000 service members from across the country who are specially trained and equipped to provide life-saving assistance in the event of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear disasters in the U.S. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Marcus Floyd, 13th Public Affairs Detachment)

JTF-CS headquarters is based in Mullen Hall at Fort Eustis, Virginia. The headquarters is comprised of more than 150 active duty, reserve, and National Guard military members and government civilians. The subordinate DCRF task forces are organized into four key emergency response task forces– Task Force Aviation, Task Force Logistics, Task Force Medical, and Task Force Operations. These task forces have robust, tailorable life-saving capabilities. Units making up the DCRF are identified a year before their validation exercise and must conduct rigorous training before they are certified capable of performing the response mission.

In addition to its own forces, JTF-CS maintains strong relationships with a community of partners in emergency response.

“We strive to train side-by-side, learning each other’s tactics, techniques, and procedures to assure a seamless working relationship in the event a response to an incident is required,” Van said. “JTF-CS and DoD’s response task forces are postured, trained, ever vigilant, and always ready to respond whenever our nation calls.”

JTF-CS’s significant deployment history in the last 10 years includes support to significant events in the United States and around the world.

March 2011: Elements of JTF-CS supported U.S. Pacific Command during Operation Tomadachi in the wake of a massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor failure in Japan. JTF-CS provided U.S. Forces Japan with a Joint Planning Augmentation Cell and an immediate response force (IRF) from the U.S. Marines Corps CBRN Incident Response Force (CBIRF). The support provided assisted U.S. Forces Japan, JTF-519, and the Japanese military to conduct CBRN consequence management planning in the aftermath of the worst nuclear accident the world had seen in the last 20 years.

August 2011: JTF-CS deployed 54 personnel and oversaw aerial surveillance missions as part of the federal response to Hurricane Irene, which caused flooding and damage throughout the U.S. East Coast. The flights allowed FEMA and North Carolina state authorities to quickly survey the damage and put response plans into action.

2012: JTF-CS deployed 120 people to New Jersey to coordinate Title 10 response efforts for 1,967 military responders operating in Ney York and New Lersey in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

March-June 2020: As part of the DoD COVID-19 response, JTF-CS provided a forward command element in New York to conduct command and control operations of Task Force New York/New Jersey.

The task force included 2,500 medical professionals from across the country who worked to help ease the burden on the New York and New Jersey hospital systems by operating field medical stations and supplementing hospital staff in both states.

July-September 2020: JTF-CS deployed a four-person religious support team to San Antonio, Texas, to support an Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force treating COVID-19 patients at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (Sept. 16, 2020) Joint Task Force Civil Support Command Post personnel participate in Vibrant Response 20 Lite while following COVID-19 mitigations. JTF-CS and Defense Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Response Force units, in coordination with U.S. Army North, are participating in the week-long exercise to sustain unit readiness. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lehman)

Paul Noel is the Deputy Director of Public Affairs at Joint Task Force Civil Support. He is responsible for the daily operations of the JTF-CS public affairs office, to include planning, directing, and execution communication and information programs, strategic communication plans and internal/external public messaging and outreach. Since reporting to JTF-CS in February 2020, he deployed to New York City to initiate media operations for Joint Task Force Northeast, the DoD task force responsible for supporting the COVID-19 response in FEMA Regions I and II.

Previously, he served as a Public Affairs Specialist at the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command’s (JECC) Joint Planning Support Element – Public Affairs (JPSE-PA) since December 2007. There he served in roles as lead public affairs planner on the NORTHCOM, STRATCOM, TRANSCOM and SOUTHCOM exercise teams, and has supported exercises in nearly all Country Commands across the globe.

A retired Navy Reserve Public Affairs Officer with 31 years total military service, he spent a 7 years on active duty primarily focusing on military outreach programs and exercise planning, and served in many shipboard and shore based Reserve units.