EDGEWOOD, Md. –
Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team took part in a joint training exercise Aug. 19-24, 2018, near Edgewood, Maryland. CSTs from Deleware, Maryland, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. also took part in the multi-day exercise designed to enhance their response capabilities by simulating 24-hour operations where teams conducted mission handovers from one team to the next as well as operating in limited visibility conditions.
“This multi-CST exercise allowed the teams to focus on exercising operations with joint teams, exercise handover procedures and focus on communication interoperability,” said Maj. Thomas Mecadon, deputy commander of the 34th CST. “The teams responded with no notice to the call outs and with no prior training together, and Virginia and Delaware were able to integrate and conduct operations without sacrificing speed, time, or accuracy of sampling.”
Mission handover was exercised and required refinement by teams throughout the exercise as the mission shifted locations, Mecadon said.
“This required the teams to conduct mission handoff decentralized, relying on the communication assets organic to the CSTs,” he said. “The ability for all four teams to be able to communicate with various radio models such as civilian based communication assets was tested. This was a success with the four teams on the ground being able to communicate and provide reports due to the organic communication operates on the team and the unified command suite.”
In the training scenario, local law enforcement requested CST support to determine if a suspected large laboratory was being used to create illegal or hazardous materials. The training initiated with the D.C. Guard’s 33rd CST responding initially, and the scope in size of the lab resulted in the 34th’s and the Delaware National Guard’s 31st CST being requested to continue operations into the night and early morning. Information from this location was then utilized for Puerto Rico to respond to a related facility the following day. This exercise culminated with joint operations with the Maryland CST conducting command and control.
The mission of the 34th CST is to support civil authorities in a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive incident, and the evaluated tasks included deploying the team, establishing communications and medical support, conducting survey, technical decontamination and analytical functions as well as conducting interagency coordination.
The 34th was evaluated as fully trained on 12 essential collective tasks after conducting a Training Proficiency Evaluation May 22 and 24, 2018, in Dinwiddie County and Hanover County, Virginia. The evaluation was supervised by U.S. Army North’s Civil Support Readiness Group-East in order to validate the unit’s level of readiness.
Approximately every 18 months, the 34th CST conducts an external evaluation, and they are evaluated on 12 different collective tasks including deploying the team, establishing communications and medical support, conducting technical decontamination, CBRN assessments and analytical functions as well as conducting interagency coordination.
The 34th CST is one of 57 such units in the country and is equipped with a wide range of the latest military and commercial equipment CBRN equipment. It is made up of 22 full-time Army and Air National Guard personnel who bring a wide range of military skills as well as career experience from the civilian sector. The unit is divided into six sections: command, operations, communications, administration/logistics, medical/analytical and survey.
Each team member completes between 500 and 900 hours of specialized training during their first year of assignment and continues advanced training throughout their tenure with multiple agencies including the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the National Fire Academy, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The team’s primary response area includes a 300-mile radius from its home station at Fort Pickett and stretches as far north as Pennsylvania and as far south as South Carolina. They maintain personnel on standby at all times, can deploy an advance team within 90 minutes of notification and the main body deploys within three hours.
A unit’s assigned transportation includes a command vehicle, operations trailer, a communications vehicle called the unified command suite which provides a broad spectrum of secure communications capabilities, an analytical laboratory system vehicle containing a full suite of analysis equipment to support the complete characterization of an unknown hazard and several general purpose vehicles. The CST normally deploys using its assigned vehicles, but it can be airlifted as required.
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Virginia, Delaware CSTs conduct joint night operations