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Fort Leonard Wood 7th CST helps Panamanians start 911 system
Fort Leonard Wood 7th CST helps Panamanians start 911 system

2nd Lt. Richard Sambolin, center left, explains the capabilities of the 7th CST to, from left, David Pinto of Panama, Panamanian-born Missouri Air Guard Staff Sgt. Herastico Pitty-Diaz, an interpreter, and Jose Santimateo of Panama.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (July 16, 2009) — The more a Missouri National Guardsman knows, the more of an asset that soldier or airman can be.

Picking up a second language at home proved useful for 2nd Lt. Richard Sambolin recently when he was able to shine a spotlight in Spanish to a pair of foreign dignitaries on what his unit is capable of doing.

“It automatically puts the individual at ease by speaking their language,” said Sambolin, the 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team’s reconnaissance team leader.

Sambolin, who learned to speak Spanish from his mother, Evelyn, walked David Pinto and Jose Santimateo, of Panama City, through the technological equipment and abilities of the unit.

“Some of the science behind our equipment is difficult to grasp in the language that you speak, let alone if you are trying to speak to someone who doesn’t speak the language,” Sambolin said. “So having that flexibility to speak their language by being bilingual gives me the opportunity to showcase the unit in a completely different way that we haven’t in the past. We have that versatility in the unit to be able to respond to, now, Hispanic communities.”

The two Panamanians are involved in their nation’s 911 system, which is only about four months old. They are in Missouri as part of the state’s partnership with Panama to see an example of an established, successful 911 call system. They hope to take the knowledge from the tour and apply it to the call system in their own country.

“My portion of it was explaining the mission of the unit and demonstrating how some of the equipment works,” Sambolin said. “They had some specific questions about how the equipment works and I would explain what it detected or what it analyzed. Some of the other questions they had were on the techniques and procedures we have for extraction and lifesaving measures, so we covered some of the basics of those.”

The unit’s mission is to support civilian first responders, assess suspected or known terrorist threats, advise civilian authorities of appropriate responses, and assist local emergency responders in incidents involving weapons of mass destruction.

Made up of both Army and Air National Guard members, the 22-person unit must be capable of sending out an advance party team within 90 minutes at all times to investigate potential threats that can range from mass sickness to mysterious white powders to unidentified contaminations.

The unit displayed some of the reconnaissance equipment, the satellite communication abilities of the advance party vehicle and the identification equipment of the mobile Analytical Laboratory System.

“They were impressed from the standpoint that it’s advanced compared to the kinds of things they may have or may be looking to acquire for their teams,” Sambolin said. “It’s good that they come and see us because it puts us in a position that perhaps they want to emulate us. We are doing the right things and they are trying to take back some of those important things back with them to their country.”

Responsible for the equipment inside the Analytical Laboratory System, 1st Lt. Matthew Marks, the unit’s nuclear medicine science officer, assisted with some of the finer points in the presentation.

“The Panamanians were interested in our capabilities in relation to their environment, especially the different biological threats they could encounter,” Marks said. “They were also familiar with the instrumentation inside the truck, which made it easier to explain the functions of the equipment.”

Sambolin stressed why it’s important to him to always be an asset to the Guard and his unit.

“I’m just glad to be a part of this team and I’m going to serve in whatever capacity they deem fit for me,” he said. “This time it was speaking Spanish and next time it will be something else.”

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