News: WMD experts train for the big stage
Story by Staff Sgt. Alexandria Brimage-Gray
MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. – Members of the 52nd Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team, Columbus, Ohio, and the 103rd Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team, Fort Richardson, Alaska, responded to a simulated real-world chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear incident July 30-31 during the U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) led Vibrant Response 13-2 at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center.
Vibrant Response is an annual event and is the country’s largest CBRN exercise. The training exercise is used to assess a unit’s operational and tactical ability to support civil authorities during domestic incidents.
The Ohio and Alaska civil support teams are two of 57 specialized Army and Air National Guard teams around the nation that provide support to civil authorities in the event of a CBRN incident by deploying rapidly to assist local first responders in determining the precise nature of an incident as well as providing expert medical and technical advice to the local commander.
“We respond to domestic incidences such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear because we have the personnel, equipment, and expertise to conduct radiological surveys. These surveys are done to determine where some radiological hotspots are or are not in order for civilian first responders to drop food, water, and medical supplies to those who need it,” said Lt. Col Jeffrey Suver, commander of the 52nd WMD-CST.
The CST team plays an important role in providing valuable feedback to the incident commander and the civilian first responders who will be taking care of the community surrounding the incident site.
“We are the first responders. We tell the incident commander or whomever is in charge what chemical agents and at what levels are present at the incident site, chemical protective measures that will need to be enforced, identify standoff distances and minimum safe areas, and identify those hazards and the necessary steps to mitigate those hazards,” said Sgt. Dustin Laycock, member of the 52nd WMD-CST.
Part of the equipment that allows the CST teams to perform their job are the chemical suits they use.
“The suits are used to identify unknowns or when we suspect a high vapor concentration of organic compounds. Although the suits serve as the best layer of protection that we have, the penetration times vary with the different chemicals,” said Laycock. “They pretty much serve as a little protective bubble that we are fully encapsulated in that allows use to be able to use the self-contained breathing apparatus located on the inside of the suit in the event of a chemical breakthrough.”
The equipment used and the continuous training they conduct like participating in joint training environments makes the CST teams and their members experts at conducting CBRN operations.
“I like to get out and participate in national level exercises like these because they provide an opportunity for us to work with various agencies on the national level who are outside of the state of Ohio in order to get a big picture approach in the event that we have to respond to a national level incident,” said Suver.