News: Training for the worst
Story by Sgt. William Henry
GARY, Ind. – Indiana National Guard troops assigned to the 53rd Civil Support Team, based in Indianapolis, joined forces with the Gary Fire Department, FBI and aviation assets for a chemical training scenario in Gary, Ind., Oct. 19.
The multiagency joint-training exercise was held to better organize the Consequence Management Strike Team when partnering with local, state and federal first responders. This training helps agencies better react to weapons of mass destruction or chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear emergency incidents in Gary.
The team’s exercise scenario was to respond to a makeshift lab. First responders discovered the lab after violent suspects fled the scene during an earthquake crisis in the vicinity of Gary. The lab was described as “not a typical lab,” so the CST was called to scene.
The CST loaded their gear and personnel on a C-23 Sherpa at Indianapolis International Airport. They took flight to Gary/Chicago International Airport where they met with aviation soldiers at the Gary Limited Army Aviation Support Facility.
The team employed an OH-58 Kiowa to aerially survey the area for dangers on the ground using closed circuit camera surveillance equipment.
The CST reconnaissance noncommissioned officer, Sgt. 1st Class David Power, emphasized that teamwork is crucial to prepare the CST and first responders.
“The relationship that we have with the first responders is really what our job is all about,” said Power. “We are that bridge between the military assets and the civilian assets, whether it’s the federal government or local first responders. A lot of times, we can simplify in between the military and the federal assets exactly what we can do and how to share those resources.”
A special agent with the FBI, Bruce Guider, Indiana WMD coordinator, has worked with the CST on numerous occasions and said this type of training is essential for organization.
“Things like these are great. Planning ahead and determining how we’re going to work together on these events,” said Guider. “It’s just a crucial piece to the overall WMD preparedness.”
The fire department helped with the decontamination line and observed operations as the CST members entered and exited the affected area.
The Gary Fire Department’s hazardous material officer, Capt. Mark Everette, observed procedures, asked questions and said he looks forward to working with CST more in the future.
“This is actually our first time working with the military in this type of situation,” said Everette. “Usually when we get outside resources, as far as different departments, there’s a certain level of comfortableness when you’re working with somebody. These guys came in, and I saw the equipment they had and you know these guys know what they’re doing.”
A CST Survey Team Member, Sgt. Dan’l Stebbins, said he takes his job seriously and the team’s professionalism and skills are essential to the safety of everyone in and around a suspected affected area.
“There are high levels of attention to detail in this job. It’s a dangerous job,” said Stebbins. “So many lives depend on it, not only ours, but everyone else.”
The Gary Fire Department’s training chief, Deputy Fire Chief Bonearl Black Jr., said the training is very important to get to know the CST, what they can do and help his team prepare for anything that may arise.
“This was excellent, and I’m glad these guys came in,” said Black. “What I hope to plan in the future is for the CST to bring all of their entities, whatever they have, equipment and manpower. Although we are prepared for Gary, we have to get on the same page with the county to make sure they follow-up and know all about [the CST].”