Posted at 2:01 AM
Joint exercise held to rehearse response plans to hazardous material situations
FORT LEE — The 34th Civil Support Team and Fort Lee Fire and Emergency Services personnel conducted a joint exercise Tuesday, Aug. 22, to rehearse their response plans to hazardous material situations.
The CST — at Fort Pickett and comprised of members from the Virginia Air Force Guard and Army National Guard — is a state asset that is prepared to deal with weapons of mass destruction.
Its mission is to support civil and military authorities at domestic incident sites during specified events such as the use or threatened use of WMD, actual or threatened terrorist attacks, intentional or unintentional release of nuclear, biological, radiological, or toxic or poisonous chemicals. They also assist with natural or man-made disasters where their ability to quickly identify hazards is required.
The joint training lane was set up by Army North, the command responsible for the oversight of the CSTs. Previously, the team was a state-only resource and Fort Lee was not able to call on the unit to assist with any chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear testing required.
Paul Condon, a training specialist with ARNORTH from Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, is part of a team that goes out to conduct these training lanes for the CSTs. Each state has at least one of the teams, he said, with 22 activated members of the Guard.
The soldiers and airmen on the team are required to have an average of more than 2,500 hours of CBRN- related training. They also receive annual training and official evaluations every 18 months. Putting together a training lane at Fort Lee was a great opportunity for the unit, said Condon.
“The worst thing you want is a response to a real-time incident with individuals who are meeting for the first time,” he said. “It’s always better to do an exchange of cards beforehand and learn each other’s capabilities. So in a real-world situation, the teams can come together quicker to give support to the garrison commander.”
Prior to this exercise, Fort Lee had very little involvement with the CST as they were listed as a state asset due to their National Guard affiliation, said Assistant Fire Chief Christopher Steckel, who is in charge of the F&ES training division. “Recent changes have allowed us to request their support through command channels. This exercise allowed each team to see how the other conducted CBRN responses.
“This training let us integrate our response and command efforts to mitigate an unknown chemical response,” he said. “Obviously, there are always some bumps in the road when you work with another agency for the first time but we were able to move past those and complete the training objectives. We took some of their best practices to incorporate into our response plans, and they also picked up a few tips from us along the way. So, all-in-all, it was a great learning experience on both sides.”