News: Multi-agency training to protect the community
Story by Sgt. Lauren Twigg
TEMPE, Ariz. - Members of the 91st Civil Support Team, Arizona National Guard, recently geared up and provided support during a multi-agency exercise Nov. 19-21 in Tempe.
The CST provided decontamination support to SWAT members from various local police departments during an active hostage/ hazardous materials weapons exercise.
“Our team was invited to participate in this training for several reasons; one is the local law enforcement needs assistance in technical decontamination, since they do not have that expertise available to them within their departments,” said Army Lt. Col. Brian Murphy, the commander for the 91st CST. “So in the future, they will understand procedures with what it means to be completely decontaminated when they had entered a potentially hazardous area.”
Capt. Jamie Spada, from the Gilbert Fire Department, who was assigned to provide medical support to the Gilbert Police SWAT during this exercise, echoes the need for more training and support from the CST.
“The Arizona National Guard CST is an invaluable resource to us,” Spada said. “They bring a skill set and resources that are not always available to us within our own agency. To have active duty Guard members who do nothing but train and become skilled experts in this particular field is something we could not replicate.”
During the 3-day exercise The CST had the opportunity to work with law enforcement, which has been rare for them since they typically work with fire departments and their HAZMAT teams for training needs.
“This was the largest scale exercise we have done in the 13 years our CST has been around with working with law enforcement,” Murphy said. “Although we typically only train with fire departments, working with law enforcement is relevant when it comes to considering all the different scenarios that can take place.”
This “transitional exercise,” as Murphy calls it, helped insure stronger professional relationships amongst the agencies and the National Guard in preparation for future events or emergencies.
“We have worked with the 91st CST in the past, but never in a training scenario such as this,” Spada explains. “The key to this exercise is being multi-jurisdictional and operating as a joint cooperation, building that interoperability between all the agencies.
The training consisted of rescuing hostages, and subduing suspects who were handling potentially hazardous chemical weapons.
“The scenario is real world type stuff that other police departments across the country have currently been faced with, and to be able to practice those scenarios before you have to face them in real life is how we will insure total preparedness,” Spada said.
The Gilbert, Tempe, Mesa, and Chandler police departments’ SWAT teams participated with more than 200 personnel total supporting this event.
“Every event that we do relates to a real world scenario – the more contact and training we have with the agencies, the more prepared we will be as a joint operation in the event that our community is threatened in some way,” Murphy said. “Communicating and knowing each others’ capabilities will create a better professional relationship, and can only happen by interacting with each other in training such as this.”