Four motor coaches carrying approximately 200 Michigan Army National Guard Soldiers from the 46th Military Police Command, Lansing, Mich., converged on Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, Ind., on July 30, 2013. Upon arrival, lines of green-uniformed Soldiers disembarked and moved toward a massive sand-colored tent. While waiting for the in-processing to begin, the chatter of excited conversation buzzed through the humid, July air as Soldiers reconnected with old friends from other states.
Soldiers with the 46th MP Command were chosen by the Department of Defense and National Guard Bureau for a non-standard mission in March 2013. The mission, C2CRE-B, creates Task Force 46, a command and control, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response element out of a multi-state collaboration.
“We will constitute Army North Command’s initial federal response forces for weapons of mass destruction,” said Brig. Gen. Burton Francisco, commanding general of Task Force 46. “We will have about 1,500 Soldiers within our task force including five down-trace units.”
The Department of Defense has one other task force in the Army serving the C2CRE mission. C2CRE-A, also known as Task Force 51, is comprised of active duty Army and reserve Soldiers, whereas Task Force 46 is comprised of National Guard Soldiers from units in Michigan, Alabama, Kentucky and Florida.
The 46th MP Command was chosen to lead this mission because of the nature of its command structure and its control of both federal and state Soldiers. Command structure aside, in order to officially receive the mission, Task Force 46 had to be validated through a rigorous gauntlet of training missions. These exercises culminated in a six-day, around-the-clock combat post exercise, Vibrant Response 13.2, at Camp Atterbury from August 1 through August 9.
“I can’t say enough about the Soldiers that make up the 46th MP Command for the sacrifices they’ve had to make,” Francisco said. “Basically, they’ve had to forfeit most of their summer.”
Initially, Task Force 46 was slated to take the C2CRE-B mission in October 2014 but Army North and the National Guard Bureau asked the state of Michigan to take th emission one year early.
“We found out in March, and the Michigan adjutant general accepted the mission, giving us four months to prepare instead of 16,” Francisco said. “Thanks to the families because most of the Soldiers have been deployed and this is just another sacrifice of time and effort.”
The training schedule for the 46th MP Command increased over the normal training tempo. While many traditional National Guard units train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer, monthly drill schedules increased up to two weekends per month and extended the active-duty summer training to approximately four weeks.
“It has been a whirlwind experience,” said Brig. Gen. Arthur Austin, deputy commanding general of Task Force 46. “The mission is unique in that to build the force we needed, we had to pull a number of folks together.”
The 46th MP Command had to increase its personnel numbers by approximately 50 Soldiers. The force was augmented by hand-picked Soldiers, volunteers and entire units, including the 126thPress Camp Headquarters based out of Augusta, Mich.
“The fun part is you get to meet a lot of new people whom you might not normally get to work with,” said Austin.
Sgt. Frank Toth has served with the 46th MP Command since 2006 and has worked jobs ranging from kitchen manager to personal security detail. The unit deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan within seven years and according to Toth, the Soldiers of the unit bring special talent from the military and civilian sectors alike.
“There are people ranging from construction workers to lawyers,” said Toth. “There’s nothing this unit can’t do, we adapt and overcome pretty rapidly.”
The 46th MP Command took command August 12. Leadership maintains that the achievements of Task Force 46 lie with the Soldiers at the heart of the mission.
“The success lies in the officers and the non-commissioned officers who took their [military occupational specialty]-specific skills and then modified them to support this non-standard mission,” said Francisco.
Task Force 46 recognizes the sense of accomplishment the Soldiers feel as part of the mission. From junior-enlisted to seasoned officers, the troops recognize the C2CRE-B mission will affect the nation for years to come.
“Based upon what I’ve seen in the last four months and the culminating event at Vibrant Response 13.2, I couldn’t be prouder of a group of men and women, officers and non-commissioned officers, that have come together and bonded in such a short period of time, to be able to work as a very efficient and effective team,” Francisco said. “My hat goes off to them.”
Story and photo by Sgt. Chelsea Barber, Michigan Army National Guard, 126 Press Camp Headquarters.