Guards’ 7th Civil Support Team trains for disaster at Kansas Motor Speedway
By: Matthew J. Wilson/Missouri National Guard Public Affairs
Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2009 8:48 am
Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Uptegrove, of the Missouri National Guard's 7th Civil Support Team, rests comfortably in a Stokes basket after he was pulled onto a cart with a hand-cranked winch by a member of the Kansas civil support team during an exercise,
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Aug. 11, 2009) — In the event of a terrorist attack at Kansas Motor Speedway, the Missouri National Guard’s 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team would likely be called to assist first responders.
The unit spent a week recently training at the speedway alongside civil support teams from Kansas and Nebraska for Operation Rolling Thunder.
“It was three days of very valuable joint training,” said Lt. Col. Raymond White, unit commander. “We worked in concert with the other teams and learned a lot.”
The mission of civil support teams is to assess suspected or known terrorist threats, advise civilian authorities of appropriate responses, and assist local emergency responders in incidents involving weapons of mass destruction or other types of disasters.
The 22-person teams, made up of both Army and Air National Guardsmen, must be capable of sending out an advance team within 90 minutes at all times to investigate potential hazards, including mass sickness, mysterious powders and unidentified contaminations.
On the first day, all three teams were given a tour of the facility and the opportunity to discuss potential obstacles they might encounter during a real world event with a member of the speedway staff.
“It was an excellent training venue,” said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Uptegrove, the 7th’s decontamination noncommissioned officer in charge. “The people up there at the speedway were very courteous and there were no limitations. The whole park was utilized for whatever we needed. We didn’t have to simulate anything.”
While two teams exercised, the third observed the other two teams in a form of peer assessment. They then rotated in that role each day.
“It’s always a really good thing to train with other civil support teams, especially the way they did it this time,” said Uptegrove, of Lebanon. “They evaluated our procedures and the use of our own equipment, so we had somebody who actually knows decontamination the same way we do and were trained the same way we are as subject-matter experts.”
After the field training began on the second day, the Missouri team was called in to backup the Kansas squad. Its task was to investigate an explosion that sprayed what was believed to be radioactive debris within the track’s infield, as well as a pair of labs inside a nearby restroom facility.
A two-person reconnaissance team of Sgt. 1st Class Juan Gallego, the reconnaissance team’s noncommissioned officer in charge, and Sgt. Herbert Wolf, reconnaissance team member, made the initial entry and checked out the radioactive debris.
“I thought it was a good exercise to challenge all members of the team,” said Gallego, of Waynesville.
Wearing a level A encapsulated hazardous material suit, Wolf, of Springfield, scanned for the tiny debris.
“We were searching for anything that looked out of place, maybe like powder,” Wolf said.
Wolf said it was a good opportunity for him to refresh on some of the unit’s detection equipment.
The next day, the 7th team observed the other two civil support teams.
Because the Kansas unit was short a few members on its reconnaissance team, members of the 7th were used in backup roles.
“We were able to provide personnel to augment their teams and test how they were able to meld into a new team,” said White, of Fort Leonard Wood.
One of those soldiers was Staff Sgt. Robyn Boatright, reconnaissance team chief.
“It’s always good to see the way other teams do the same thing that we are trained to do, just to see different levels of experience and different techniques,” said Boatright, of Success. “It was beneficial just to see the way that they performed.”
As she filled in on the exercise, Boatright was asked to take on the role of a team member who was incapacitated with sickness so the rest of the Kansas team could practice getting her to safety.
“When the casualty, me, went down, they were able to load me as the casualty with one person rolling me onto the cart and using a winch to lift me up on an all-terrain vehicle,” said Boatright. “That’s something I haven’t seen or trained on before. So that in itself was different. It was kind of neat to see how fast you were able to extract one person by yourself.”
On the last day of field training, the 7th was called in to examine a pair of labs that were staged in bathroom facilities underneath the tracks grandstands.
Inside the labs, the reconnaissance teams discovered precursors to chemical warfare agents.
White took himself out of the team’s second exercise, which put his deputy commander, Maj. Jeffrey Ford, and operations officer, Capt. Theresa Wagner, in charge, so he could observe all aspects of his unit.
“For me it was a good experience to step back and look at the big picture — to see how all the sections worked together to execute the team’s mission,” White said. “I was able to observe the team’s setup from the tactical operations center to the decontamination line, and reconnaissance team members as they explored the exercise scenario. It gave me a valuable knowledge to help direct the team on the course it needs to go.”
The unit’s nuclear medicine science officer, 1st Lt. Matthew Marks, said the exercise was good training for him as he was able to use the Analytical Laboratory System to determine exactly what the samples taken on both days were. He added that the team should strive to continue to improve communication.
“If you get some information and it happens to be different than what was passed along, we need to make sure to communicate that,” said Marks, of Waynesville. “You might not be thinking down a particular road, and somebody else could be.”
In the future, Gallego said he’d like to see more joint civil support team training, to include every member of each team working directly with Soldiers from other teams to complete the mission.
“Let’s put all our forces together and then say, ‘I need two people to go over here,’ and it doesn’t matter what state’s team you’re on,” Gallego said. “I think that’s where it needs to be more tailored and that way you learn from different people.”
According to 7th CST members, one of the most valuable parts of the exercise at Kansas Motor Speedway was the opportunity to interact with two groups of their peers.
The team from Missouri got the chance to see and learn the subtle differences in procedures used by the 72nd Civil Support Team from Nebraska and the 73rd Civil Support Team from Kansas, as well as check out their variations and modifications on equipment.
“The biggest thing I got out of it was to see the vast different equipment that other civil support teams have,” said Gallego, the 7th’s reconnaissance team noncommissioned officer in charge.
Wolf, a member of the reconnaissance team, focused on how the other reconnaissance teams maintained their equipment.
“I pretty much learned different set ups and how they prepare their equipment boxes and their trucks,” said Wolf.
Uptegrove, the decontamination noncommissioned officer in charge, said there was much to gain from observing other teams’ decontamination lines.
“It’s always good to train with other civil support teams because each one has a unique decon line,” said Uptegrove. “The civil support teams are designed so they are flexible to adapt their line to whatever situation that they are normally in. It’s good to see another decon line based on their equipment, tactics and procedures, so we can see if there is anything we can adopt into ours.”
Uptegrove said he particularly impressed a modification the Kansas reconnaissance team had for extricating downed team members in a Stokes basket. Once the soldier is secured in the basket, a hand-cranked winch and a wooden ramp is used to pull the basket up on to a cart for easy transportation.
“That looks like something we might be interested in checking in to — that it might be a better model than what we currently have,” Uptegrove said.
Marks, the 7th CST nuclear medicine science officer, he said he was able to learn tips to be better-rounded in his job.
“I was able to see sample processing and what other science officers and medical noncommissioned officers have as their strength,” said Marks. “Everybody has a different background and different ways of doing things. If one’s strength is in biology and yours is chemistry, then you can learn about bio stuff and you can teach them about the chemical way.”
It also was a chance to share knowledge acquired from different Army courses, Marks said.
“If you’ve been to a course and they haven’t, you can help them out on little things,” he said.
Specifically, Marks said he learned much about being thorough when analyzing samples.
“Some things can be hidden and masked by other chemicals within a sample,” he said.