News: The first response
Story by Sgt. Leticia Samuels
SALEMBURG, N.C. - Soldiers conduct training annually to stay efficient at their response posture and advising of other first responders, but were also evaluated by the U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), a Civil Support Readiness Group. The evaluation and training ensures that service members further develop, organize and integrate Department of Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Enhanced conventional weapons (CBRNE) response capabilities and operations while working with our civilian first response counterparts.
“Each team is designed to go and identify Weapons of Mass Destruction and we train, evaluate, and certify them on an 18 month basis” said Tim Meadors, Survey Analyst Army North Southeast Division, Civil Support Readiness Group East.
The CST mission is to assess a suspected Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) attack, offer advice to civilian responders on appropriate actions, and facilitate the arrival of additional state and Federal military forces.
With their capabilities these units become a valuable and unique military asset. They can deploy rapidly to a suspected or actual terrorist attack and conduct special reconnaissance to determine the effects of the attack. The 42nd CST provides situational awareness to the military chain of command while providing consultation to local authorities on managing the effects of a potential attack to minimize the impact on the civilian population.
The team conducted a lane training exercise with a simulated scenario of a disgruntled employee working for the Sampson County sheriff’s department. In the scenario the employee, he retaliated against the Sheriff’s office to gain revenge for his brother who was arrested after a drug raid. The employee wasn’t made aware of the arrest and felt betrayed by the sheriff’s office. He saw an opportunity to get back at the officers, so he planted a small explosive device containing radiation also known as a “dirty bomb” inside a building where the personnel trained.
Officers were aware of the explosive device but assumed that it was part of the training simulation. Before training was completed officers began feeling nauseated, vomiting, coughing, and developed skin irritations. After instructors discovered a “white powdery unknown substance,” they notified the proper channels to have the 42nd CST inspect and conduct their evaluation of the scene.
“They were training in the area and then were called to a ‘white powder’ incident,” said Meadors “now they are being evaluated on how they respond.”
Analysts went to the suspected building and performed procedures like a crime scene investigation unit, analyzing all clues and building a theory on what happened and how the evidence will lead them to solving what happened and better advise first responders on what their next steps should be.
According to Capt. Danny Fitzpatrick, “Our CST team is very methodical, everybody knew exactly what to do this morning and people have gotten some really great training.”
This team will go through a base line 12 week long Civil Support Skills Course before arriving at the unit. Once assigned to their unit, members attend numerous other courses to enhance their knowledge on techniques, procedures, and methods used to detect unknown chemicals at an investigative site.
“This job is physically demanding, just being inside that suit is pretty hard,” said Robert Delgado, radiation survey analyst, 42nd CST. “You have to be physically and mentally fit especially the mental part.”
Service members also encountered live situations that can arise during their investigation. One of the team members simulated having a sudden case of adenitis forcing personnel to safely transport and decontaminate him before seeking medical attention.
“Actually coming here and having evaluators basically see every move that we make is gratifying because they will tell us what we’re doing wrong.”
This scenario like many others are based on a real life situation, with this in mind, CST members treat the exercise like a real event.
“It feels good down deep inside, to know that if something were to happen, that we are here and we do exist and we can take care of it” Delgado replied.
Fitzpatrick, North Carolina National Guard, deputy joint training and exercises officer (J7), is also a key player in the operational portion of the training being conducted.
“From a J7 stand point we provide them with a facility where they can set up their footprint, and a scenario that can happen in the real world is what we try to gear the training toward,” Fitzpatrick replied.
Once the training exercise is complete the Fifth Army personnel give the unit commander a score on how they performed during the training exercise portion of their validation process. This better equips the commander with what types of training to focus on when preparing their yearly training schedule.
This training keeps the North Carolina National Guard ready, reliable, responsive, and reliant but also validates the necessity of all National Guard states across the country.