A Maine Army National Guard military police unit spent three days this week working with the police and fire departments in Portland and South Portland to learn how to work together in the event of a disaster.

The training will help the agencies if they need to rely on each other in an emergency situation, Lt. Aaron Bradbury, the executive officer for the Maine Army National Guard’s 488th Military Police Company, said during a news conference Wednesday at the training site on District Road in Portland.

“When the military police are mobilized by the governor, we come in support of local law enforcement,” Bradbury said.

The military police are subordinate to local police in a civil emergency, he said.

About 200 personnel took part in the exercise, which was based on the premise that an avian flu outbreak had weakened the ranks of public safety workers and members of the public were clamoring for access to the vaccine.

Though the avian flu has decimated chicken and turkey flocks in other states, there is a low risk that humans would become infected, State Veterinarian Michele Walsh said on Tuesday.

Even so, Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said the training is important for whatever emergency strikes the city.

“Whether a natural disaster or a medical emergency, the backbone of our response is cooperation,” Sauschuck said.

The Portland exercise is the culmination of two weeks of training for the guard unit on skills members have been learning over the course of the year, Bradbury said.

The National Guard also might have a role reducing drug trafficking in the state if Gov. Paul LePage goes ahead with a proposal he recently made.

Sgt. 1st Class Pete Morrison, a spokesman for the Maine Army National Guard who attended Wednesday’s media briefing, said this week’s exercise has been in the works for about a year and is unrelated to the possibility the guard would assist in drug interdiction.

He said some guardsmen have helped drug investigations with analysis, but that was not a military police function.

“The Maine Army National Guard is ready to assist the governor as always in whatever mission that we’re able to,” he said.

The Guard’s leadership and the governor’s office are discussing the specifics of the LePage’s proposal, he said.

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