Joint Task Force South: A new mission unfolds

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. James Bentley
  • 183rd Fighter Wing
At the direction of Major General William Enyart, the Adjutant General of Illinois, the Illinois National Guard and Air National Guard established Joint Task Force (JTF)-South in support of domestic operations taskings. In an operational order dated Feb. 26, 2010, signed by Gen. Enyart, mandated the 183rd Fighter Wing, in conjunction with the 65th Troop Command Brigade (Camp Lincoln) would standup a second Joint Task Force within Illinois by Oct. 1, 2010. The current JTF (JTF-North) is composed of the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) and the 182nd Airlift Wing (Peoria) and is commanded by Brigadier General Pratt.

JTF-South is commanded by Colonel Stephen Baggerly and is comprised of Airmen and Soldiers from the following units: 183rd Fighter Wing, 65th Troop Command Brigade, Illinois Army National Guard, Camp Lincoln, Springfield, and the 126th Air Refueling Wing, Scott Air Force Base, Belleville.

The JTF-South will provide command and control for state military assets deployed in defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) or a specific incident. It will also facilitate the flow of information between the Joint Forces-State (JFHQ-State) and deployed units under control of the JTF.

JTF-South will work closely with the civilian incident commander in an effort to maintain situational awareness of local, state, and federal actions, ensuring the adequacy and effectiveness of response, support and safety activities.

As the senior military commander on the scene, Col. Baggerly will be responsible for the safe and efficient employment of all assigned military forces. If additional forces are required, he can request that the JFHQ-State activate and deploy additional units.
For response to a major incident, the JTF-South commander may have a variety of forces deployed, including a Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP), a quick reaction force, medical units, and various aviation and ground transportation units.

Colonel Baggerly may, with the consent of the President of the United States, be called into federal service and continue service under state regulations so that they may command both regular (Title 10) and National Guard forces, thus facilitating a unity of effort for all military forces at the incident.

It is the responsibility of the JTF-South Commander and his staff to know what capabilities the various Guard units in the state possess and how they might be applied to the problem at hand so that they can be efficiently used to provide the most effective response.

Colonel Baggerly and his JTF staff (approximately 60 Airman and Soldiers) are required to complete different DoD courses and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Incident Command System courses related to the National Incident Management System (NIMS). NIMS provides the template for the management of incidents and works hand in hand with the National Response Framework (NRF) which provides the structure and mechanisms for national-level policy for incident management. Also, members are encouraged to complete additional training. Col. Baggerly and myself (JTF-South Chief of Staff) have both completed a Master of Science in Emergency and Disaster Management.

In preparation for standing up the JTF by this October, JTF-South members participated earlier this year with JTF-North in a Red Risk Planning exercise, then a Guard North table top exercise and finally in June in a Prairie North exercise, which was a full-scale exercise in Chicago. This exercise (which simulated a commercial airplane crash, methamphetamine lab takedown, biological terrorist act and a chemical plant explosion) was designed to test civilian and military response and coordination should multiple incidents occur in the metro Chicago area. The exercise was necessary to ensure that Illinois is prepared to protect the public from and mitigate consequences of, an act of terrorism or other major disaster. The Illinois National Guard was the host agency for the exercise and developed scenarios to support the training goals over 50 local, state, federal, and international agencies and approximately 1,500 participants.

In 2011, JTF-South will participate in Prairie South exercise. The Prairie South exercise will be part of the 2011 National Level Exercise (NLE) which will be a domestic non-terrorism major earthquake covering FEMA Regions IV, V, VI, VII that includes 23 states. Illinois is part of FEMA's Region V. The exercise is expected to culminate with a series of major command exercises, coinciding with the 200th Anniversary of the 1811- 1812 earthquakes that occurred along the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) in the central United States. The largest earthquakes in the history of the continental United States occurred along the NMSZ in the winter of 1811- 1812. Moderate earthquakes have occurred several times in the past century in Central U.S., including a 5.2 quake on Apr. 18, 2008, in the Wabash Valley seismic zone in southwestern Illinois, just north east of the NMSZ.

The Soldiers and Airmen of JTF-South will leave their own families, homes and jobs on a moment's notice to help those in need in any affected areas. They are citizens helping citizens.