TEXARKANA, Texas – The distinctive whine of thousands of cicadas competed with multiple vehicle sirens as the 6th Civil Support Team arranged their vehicles in a defensive pattern down a back road of the Red River Army Depot. The noise level rose with the East Texas heat as the team participated in a joint training exercise with area civilian authorities and emergency responders.
The Austin based unit worked quickly to gather intel for the incident commander as to the cause of several unconscious individuals, an overturned military vehicle and a small crater in the road. Moving as carefully as is possible in bulky, air-tight hazmat suits, they sampled the air for chemicals and radiation levels, observed the physical reactions of the casualties and photographed the site. Once they finished determining the type of agent used, the team leader informed the incident commander on how best to manage response techniques and mitigate the danger.
“We are here for a couple different reasons,” said Army Maj. Bobbie Jackson, 6th CST commander, in a phone interview after the exercise. “The Red River Army Depot provides the facilities for us to fulfill our annual training requirement on essential collective tasks. This allows us to sustain relationships with our response partners here in Texas and those from Arkansas through joint training exercises. We are also fortunate to have members of U.S. Army North here able to give us guidance in preparation for our external evaluation.”
The RRD facilitates scenario-driven training exercises like this; encompassing coordinated and synchronized unit efforts at the soldier, leader, and collective task level in support of a Federal Certification Process. All CSTs are required to go through this certification process every 18 months, this fall just happens to be the renewal time-frame for the 6th CST.
In addition to the federal observers, Jackson worked with the Red River Police and Fire Departments and the 61st CST of Arkansas for a total of three days of exercises.
“Conducting joint training with the 61st CST allows us to become more familiar with coordinating multiple team missions,” said Jackson, “in addition to just getting together with a well established team to re-evaluate our tactics, techniques and procedures. We also spent time sharing what works for each of our teams and incorporating new approaches to old problems.”
The Department of Defense established Civil Support Teams, also known as Weapons of Mass Destruction CSTs, to rapidly deploy to assist a local incident commander in determining the nature and extent of an attack or incident. This allows them to provide expert technical advice on WMD response operations and help identify and support the arrival of follow-on state and federal military response assets.
“The bulk of CST training is usually in-state but most units try to accomplish joint training with sister states at least once a year,” said Jackson. “This year we have worked with New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana for several real-world and training events.”
When the “call” came in to dispatch, the Austin team fell in under the incident commander, a local fire captain. Upon arriving on-site, Jackson directed her team to quickly integrate with the Arkansas unit and the depot’s emergency teams to meet the IC objectives.
“This simulated training event involved a vehicle, an IED and a blood agent,” said Lt. Col Stan Evans of the 61st CST commander. “But it could just as easily been a dirty bomb or nuclear device.”
There are hundreds of scenarios in which a CST can operate and this particular training allowed deeper familiarization and smooth transitions from single unit function to multiple unit function.
“Our two teams synched together,” said Evans, “to support the incident commanders’ mission. We made joint entry using survey people and achieved all the incident commanders’ objectives in less than three hours. It was a very successful integration of our two CSTs doing a joint operation.”