News: Wisconsin Guard's disaster response team reaches out to tribal government
Story by Vaughn Larson
BOWLER, Wis. - Members of the first responder community in the Stockbridge-Munsee Reservation were given an up-close and personal view, in a non-emergency setting, of the Wisconsin National Guard's 54th Civil Support Team's capabilities earlier this month.
Lt. Col. David May, commander of the 54th CST, indicated that this training event might be the first between the Wisconsin National Guard and tribal government.
"I hope it's the first of many," he added.
The 54th CST, a full-time unit made up of Wisconsin National Guard soldiers and airmen, is a rapid response team for emergencies or terrorist events involving weapons of mass destruction or toxic industrial chemicals. They work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as subject matter experts to detect, identify and advise how to proceed where potentially hazardous materials are concerned.
"Civil support teams are part of a much larger construct of National Guard and active duty assets," May said. "We're just the starting point - we're the ones who can help you identify and detect substances. If the scene grows much larger and you need mass decontamination or large-scale triage, or search and extraction, there are other units in the National Guard that can serve that function."
Civil support teams typically conduct four types of missions: response, a no-notice mission; stand-by, where the unit passively and actively monitors large, preplanned events; assist, such as providing training and demonstrations to local first response units statewide; and training missions to maintain both military and unit-specific skills.
May emphasized that civil support teams augment a local incident commander.
"We work for you," he said. "We support completing your objective as long as they are within my approved mission."
"We don't take over," May continued. "We don't charge a fee."
And despite the detection capabilities they bring to an incident, May said civil support teams cannot replace local first responder services.
Capt. Jeremiah Hellenbrand described two recent missions involving suspected poisons and explosives where the 54th CST supported local authorities.
In addition to showing some of the equipment the 54th CST uses in the course of its duties, unit members outlined current methods and components clandestine labs use to make methamphetamine, poisons, nerve agents and explosives.
"These are mostly household products," said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Prieur. "You guys are in a lot of residences on a no-notice basis — these are the kinds of things if you see lying around should be piquing your curiosity."
Roger Miller, the emergency coordinator for the Stockbridge-Munsee Reservation and safety officer for the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Volunteer Fire Department, appreciated the visit.
"One of the things is [we know] we've got backup if something major happens," Miller said. "This mutual aid that we have here is instrumental out in the field, with tight dollars for training, having people come out who are experts training our local people - it's pennies on the dollar for protection."
Miller hoped that the 54th CST might return for a scenario-based training exercise that would include other Shawano County emergency responders.
Sgt. Austin Ryan of the 54th CST echoed that sentiment.
"Hopefully in the future we'll do a joint training mission together," he said.