MILFORD, Mass. – The Massachusetts National Guard’s 1st Civil Support Team was assessed for certification by an Army North evaluation team during an exercise at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne, Mass., last October.
The exercise began with a no-notice call-out at 4:30 a.m. to support the FBI. The scenario required the CST to respond to the Maritime Academy’s training vessel, “The Enterprise”, docked at the school. This no-notice call-out was intended to test the capabilities and readiness of the unit as part of an external evaluation that all civil support teams must pass.
The mission of the CST is to assess hazards, advise civil authorities, and facilitate military support during emergencies and incidents of suspected weapons of mass destruction. In addition, the team advises civilian responders on appropriate actions through on-site testing and expert consultation, and assists and facilitates the arrival of follow-on military forces.
The Massachusetts National Guard’s Directorate of Military Support acts as a liaison between the CST and local, state and federal organizations. The DOMS ensured the unit could conduct its evaluation exercise while making full use of the Massachusetts Maritime facility, including their 15,500 horsepower, 540-foot steamship, “The Enterprise.”
Upon arriving at the scene, the CSTs advance team met with the incident commander, role-played by Dan Robbins, Army North’s lead evaluator for CSTs. Robbins briefed the team about the scenario.
After the briefing, the survey team prepared their hazardous material detection equipment and donned chemical suits and respiration apparatus. The survey team searched the school grounds while the decontamination team set up an area to decontaminate people who might have been exposed to chemical or biological agents.
After the team surveyed the school grounds, they took the samples to their mobile laboratory for testing before sending them to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for further analysis. The team treated the area as a crime scene and kept detailed notes to record findings.
The second scenario, involving the training vessel, involved a ship carrying 87 passengers pulling into port with 12 passengers who complained of flu-like symptoms.
The evaluators watched the team members to ensure they followed procedures, asking them knowledge-based questions and offering advice. The evaluators see many CSTs in action and are able to collect a lot of information about how the teams perform and use this experience to advise them.
“The teams will have to demonstrate proficiency in 12 areas to attain their certification,” said Russ Stevens, CST evaluator for Army Northern Command, “one of those areas will be how well does the team communicate with each other and what standard operating procedures they have in place to ensure that.”
The team conducted three entries as part of their evaluation and passed all 12 of their required tasks. When the exercise ended for the day, the team conducted an on-scene after action review, departing the school at approximately 11 p.m. The team reconvened at home station the next morning to perform after action recovery and maintenance.
The CST is comprised of 22 full-time Army and Air National Guard personnel divided into six sections: command, operations, communications, administration/logistics, medical, and survey. Members of the unit receive more than 600 hours of high-tech training by agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency.