News: Indiana 53rd CST assists civilian first responders during NLE 11
By Jill Swank
BUTLERVILLE, Ind. – Despite rainy and chilly conditions during National Level Exercise 2011, members of the Indiana National Guard's 53rd Civilian Support Team and first responders from various Indiana Department of Homeland Security districts combined skills at Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex May 16-20 for emergency response training.
As part of their full-time mission set, the 53rd CST responds to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents and works in conjunction with local first-responders in determining the nature of an attack or incident; provides medical and technical counsel and the identification and arrival of follow-on state and federal military response resources. Each team consists of 22 full-time Army and Air National Guardsmen and is broken down into six smaller teams -- command, operations, communications, administration and logistics, medical, and survey teams. The 53rd CST is a full-time unit standing ready to support the state response, with 19 soldiers and 3 airmen, under the direction of the governor at a moment’s notice.
As part of one scenario during the exercise, strike team members of the 53rd CST assisted first responders from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, District 2, Tactical Rescue Team from South Bend as they dug through a rubble pile searching for mock victims. Other tasks that were included tested the team’s ability to setup a communication dispatch center and detect hazardous materials in devastated affected areas.
According to Lt. Col. Eric Honaker, it takes a combined effort by all agencies to accomplish all the tasks in this exercise. When asked about the reaction of the first responders Honaker said, “We could see the relief in the faces of the first responders when our team arrived to assist in operations.”
Honaker went on to explain that the 53rd CST duties were to provide initial advice on what the CBRN agent may be, assist first responders in that detection assessment process, and be the first military responders to the area.
First responders and soldiers have to mesh together and protect individuals from possible threats, said Sgt. Neil Stone. “Cross training is beneficial to both sides.”
53rd CST was also active in interfacing with outside task force organizations. CST strike team members assisted first responders in minor equipment shortages, such as phone, internet and radio systems. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Galloway was instrumental in the setup of a dispatch center for operation to enhance communications on ground.
When asked about cost of supplying first responders with a myriad of resources and equipment, Galloway replied that the resources provided by CST come at low or no cost to civilian first responders because of state funding.
Participation in the National Level Exercise 2011 provided realistic, hands on training needed to ensure proficiency during a catastrophic earthquake and added benefit to both the CST strike team and the civilian first responders they worked alongside.