VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. –
Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team participated in a Joint Hazard Assessment Team training exercise with members of the Maine National Guard’s 11th CST, the FBI, the Virginia Beach Fire Department and the Virginia Beach Police Department April 25- 29, 2022, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
During the three-day exercise, members of the JHAT survey teams conducted reconnaissance and collected samples of suspicious materials and packages in a military barracks.
The purpose of the exercise was to integrate with the Virginia Beach Fire Department and Bomb Squad in order to capture and compare tactics, techniques and procedures in case they encounter a hazard while conducting a joint hazard assessment team mission, according to Lt. Col. Lyndsey Hodgkins, commander of the 34th CST.
“It is commonly said in emergency management that it is ideal if the first time we meet would not be while responding to a real-world hazard,” she said. “We strive to integrate with federal, state, and local entities we may encounter and work with during a real-world response.”
In addition, the training was an opportunity for the 34th CST to integrate and adapt some of the 11th CST’s best practices.
“Specifically, our survey and communications section benefitted tremendously from cross training with their counterparts,” Hodgkins said. “Additionally, the Department of Health and FBI sent representatives to facilitate and assist with the training. We continue to strive to integrate as many agencies as we can during our field training exercises. Multiagency training is not only beneficial for all parties involved but we have experienced an eagerness in civilian entities willing to train with the civil support team.”
Training also took place one day at the Virginia Beach Bomb Squad Training Facility and Hodgkins credited the Virginia Beach Bomb Squad with pulling everyone together.
She also cited Capt. Samantha Vittorioso, the 34th CST's nuclear medical science officer, and Sgt. 1st Class William Havens, the team's medical NCO, who took the initiative to set up the targets and challenge the team’s capability to identify and assess unknown hazards for the training.
The 34th CST supports first responders during potential hazardous materials incidents involving possible chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive threats and can identify unknown substances, assess current and projected consequences, advise an incident commander on response measures and assist with requests for additional state support.