HONOLULU - Faint moans fill the vessel’s passageways with disturbing sounds in the distance. As sounds get louder with each step taken, one would believe this vessel is haunted. The team approaches an opening to an unknown, badly lit hallway, exposing another level of uncertainty.
The extraction squad with the 85th Civil Support Team out of Utah dons their personal protective equipment and prepares for a rescue mission. A semi-conscience man is held hostage in the depths of the USS Duluth, held at Pearl Harbor inactive shipyard, during a joint forces multi-agency threat based maritime training exercise.
Since the vessel has many narrow areas, confined space operations are used as they rig ropes to safely extract the hostage from the vessel. Although the 85th CST extraction team hasn’t yet responded to a real-life maritime mission, this is something they have trained to do.
“It’s a great way to exercise our capabilities and coordination required for a large event,” said Army Lt. Col. Ken Verboncoeur, commander of 85th CST.
CSTs work directly with civil authorities during man-made or natural disasters. Working alongside 3rd Platoon, 71st Chemical Company out of Schofield Barracks, the 85th is prepared for a mission. Soldiers of 3rd Platoon specialize in decontamination, reconnaissance and hazardous material response.
“We work closely with the Wahiawa Fire Department and 93rd CST,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daphne Thomas, platoon sergeant of 3rd Platoon.
The Kai Malu O Hawaii 2012 maritime exercise, allows CSTs from various states and territories to engage with federal, state and local agencies to rehearse responsive support to numerous incidents.
“It’s our first time participating in a multiple CST exercise,” said Verboncoeur. “It’s a great opportunity to work with other civil support teams.”
Simultaneous scenarios were enacted at sites all over the islands of Oahu and Kauai.
"Different scenarios, especially maritime, really prepares us for a nationwide disaster if it should occur," said Air Force Maj. Jared Gailey, science officer with the 85th CST. "We're from Utah and could potentially respond to an alert in Hawaii."
The fourth annual exercise opens a lot of avenues for training and improvements on techniques and strategies used in potential maritime disasters. CSTs around the nation can use this as a stepping-stone to prepare them for a WMD occurrence anywhere in the Unites States and its territories.
"The associations and training to this point have been spectacular,” said Gailey. “This really gives us the opportunity to see some of the difficulties we might have and to address them before any real world disaster could potentially happen.”
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas explained that you have to put them on the spot by utilizing their experience and knowledge to accomplish the mission, with that they feel a sense of worth and accomplishment.
Faint moans begin to disappear as the 85th CST extraction team surfaces from the unknown and the rescue mission comes to a close. The passageways of the Duluth are once again undisturbed.