Civil Support Team Conducts Decontamination Training

The 15th Civil Support Team (Weapons of Mass Destruction) service members analyze and document the spill during decontamination training at Edward F. Knapp State Airport, Barre, Vt. July 30, 2015. This exercise is part of defense support of civil authorities training. (Photos by U.S. U.S. Army National Guard Pvt. Avery Cunningham)

By Pvt. Avery Cunningham

BARRE-MONTPELIER AIRPORT, Vt. Civil support teams, like the 15th Civil Support
Team (Weapons of Mass Destruction), assist emergency personnel by providing more advanced tools to analyze hazardous substances and improved communication
abilities. The 15th CST did this recently as part of defense support of civil authorities

“A typical mission would be to assist local law enforcement and first responders using
our advanced communications assets and chemical identification abilities,” said Sgt.
1st Class Jason Anderson, communications chief, 15th CST (WMD).

A lot of our missions are support missions, support of law enforcement, so state police and TSA are our primaries, said Tech. Sgt. August Hoaglund, survey team chief, 15th CST (WMD). A lot of the other missions outside of our local missions have to do with supporting other CSTs that are doing the same thing.

The CST weren’t always as well equipped or manned. The CSTs were revamped in
response to the 9/11 attacks. “They were developed before 9/11 as a light team, after 9/11 happened it was reassessed that they needed to make these a heavy team instead of a light team,” said Hoaglund. Heavy, 22 man teams of full time National Guardsmen were instituted in every state to augment local entities in the event of a large-scale emergency.

To respond to large emergencies, civil support teams bring together different agencies
to streamline an avenue of communication and share resources in response to any
hazardous substance.

“The CST is important because it bridges the gap between local law enforcement, local
assets and federal assets,” said Anderson. “We provide some federal capabilities that
wouldn’t be available to your local fire chief, local police department, your smaller

Furthermore, the CST has other crucial equipment and abilities that deliver a wider
range of capabilities to local authorities.
“We have the ability to identify hazardous substances,” said Anderson. “We have a
laboratory that we bring with us that gives us a preliminary analysis of what a hazardous substance may or may not be, which we have to know in regards to saving somebody’s life and evacuating areas.”

The exact ability that the CST brings is more advanced and specific than what most
states have available. Without these abilities, authorities have no way of measuring or
knowing if certain substances pose a serious risk to the public.

“We bring to the table a chemical, biological and nuclear detection capability that most
state entities don’t have,” said Hoaglund. “We also bring in the aspect of all our air
monitoring capabilities that we do. So we do air monitoring for chemicals, so anything
that is industrial or military grade, we can detect in the air, in off gases.”

The 15th CST (WMD) conducted a training exercise on July 30 to test their readiness
and prepare for incidents involving spills or potentially dangerous chemicals.
“It shows how we can operate with multi-agencies as well as give our leaders, which
are back at the JOC (Joint Operations Center) or at the governor’s office that aren’t at
this site, a full picture of what’s going on,” said Anderson.

The CST service members, dressed in their orange HAZMAT suits, cautiously
approached the downed barrel. They tested the chemical and took pictures for
documentation. From there, two service members opened a container meant to contain the barrel, therefore protecting the area from further contamination. They shifted the barrel into the container and sealed it shut.

After they neutralized the chemical threat from spreading, the service members had to
complete the most important part of the task, decontamination. Armed with water, soap and a sponge they careful washed each other’s suits. Once they had thoroughly
cleaned the suits, they carefully removed them without touching the outside layer of it
to prevent any chance of contamination. The suits were closed in red bags then sealed
with tape.

Although it is a simple process, the entire procedure is tedious. The service members
have to be extremely careful and thorough to insure that the area, themselves and
anyone else are safe. These processes are overly meticulous to eliminate almost any
chance of contamination.

It is training events like these that prepare the 15th CST (WMD) for chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear substances that pose a risk. No matter the substance, they’ll be prepared to assist and to prevent further contamination.