MILFORD, Mass. – The 1st Civil Support Team, Massachusetts National Guard, was evaluated during a grueling 16 hour scenario, Oct. 26, 2011, at the Massachusetts State Police Complex, New Braintree, Mass., for its annual external evaluation.
The annual evaluation is a requirement for the 1st CST to maintain its certification so that the members may continue to do their job, said Maj. David Shannon, the exercise officer in charge and a member of the Construction Facilities Management Office, Joint Force Headquarters, Massachusetts National Guard.
The operation started when the team received a call at 5 a.m. instructing them of an incident, said Shannon. From there the team has to deploy and conduct operations in an appropriate manner as well as in a certain amount of time.
The scenario unfolds to include a terrorist plot, or two, that includes two facilities, houses in a domestic neighborhood, one of which is used to create a deadly agent and the second house to package it, said Shannon. The unit must collect intelligence from the two locations as well as treat patients and test the chemical agents involved so that they can communicate that back to other authorities.
Furthermore, the 1st CST has no knowledge of the exercise prior to the phone call they receive, said Shannon. They only have a window of time, the start of the week to the end of the week that they know the event will take place. They don’t know where or when.
“From the beginning to the very end, they don’t know where they are going so everything they need, they need to plan while they are here,” said Shannon.
Throughout the day the team is evaluated on 12 separate tasks, ranging from deployment to conducting technical decontamination, said Shannon. Army North comes into evaluate the team, hence it is an external organization testing them.
One of the most important things is communication, internal and external, said Shannon.
There are three pieces that are most crucial to the success of the 1st CST and communication is one of those pieces, said 2nd Lt. Caley Heckman, science officer, 1st CST, Massachusetts National Guard.
“Our unit doesn’t run without communication,” said Heckman.
The ability to send and receive messages from other agencies is what makes the CST so important, said Sgt. 1st Class Chester Diaz, medical non-commissioned officer, 1st CST, Massachusetts National Guard.
“As long as we can send messages we can receive messages and as long as other agencies can receive our messages they can send them back,” said Diaz. Besides renewing their certified, the exercise is important to keep the 1st CST prepared.
“This training keeps us ready,” said Diaz.