LYNCHBURG, Va. –
Soldiers assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s Blackstone-based 34th Civil Support Team joined members of the Virginia State Police, Lynchburg Fire Department and the Virginia Department of Health in sharing their knowledge and experience in the areas of hazardous material identification and collection with Liberty University students April 9, 2016, in Lynchburg, Virginia. The training was conducted in a non-emergency, simulated bioterrorism attack environment, and the CST personnel did not wear their normal protective equipment to facilitate easier communication with the students.
“This is an opportunity for our Soldiers and Airmen to practice their trade, cooperate with local first responders and showcase our abilities in order to build even stronger partnerships,” explained Maj. Michael Booker, commander of the 34th CST. “Our Soldiers and Airmen enjoy being able to take their training and experience and share it with college students and other HAZMAT teams.”
CST members have to complete more than 1,800 hours of training to be certified, Booker said. During each training year, they conduct hundreds of hours of additional training and conduct multiple exercises all over the commonwealth.
The event was organized by Dr. J. Thomas McClintock, professor and director of Forensic Sciences in Liberty University’s Department of Biology & Chemistry, and was designed to give students a first hand look at how first responders and military biological, radiological, nuclear, and chemical experts search for possible hazardous materials and proper techniques for collecting samples when materials are found.
“This has been an awesome opportunity for all these agencies to come together and work in a non-emergency situation to be able to train each other as well as train the students,” McClintock said.
He explained that while text books provide a valuable learning tool for students, the hands-on training facilitated by the Guard and local first responders added a tremendous level of realism.
Liberty University biology and chemistry students were organized into teams and instructed on how to set up meters that are used by first responders to detect biological, radiological, nuclear and chemical agents. After a initial familiarization session, students moved into the training area where specific targets and foggers were set up to simulate the release of a radiological and biological agent.
The 34th CST is comprised of 22 full-time Army and Air National Guard personnel with the mission to support civil authorities at a domestic chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incident site with identification and assessment of hazards, advice to civil authorities and facilitating the arrival of follow-on military forces during emergencies and incidents of weapons of mass destruction terrorism. The unit complements and enhances, but does not duplicate, state CBRNE response capabilities is divided into six sections: command, operations, communications, administration/logistics, medical/analytical and survey.