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Training takes unexpected turn while Guard works with civilian agencies
Training takes unexpected turn while Guard works with civilian agencies

Staff Sgt. Robyn Boatright, of the Missouri National Guard's 7th Civil Support Team, sits "injured" at the bottom of a staircase after she "fell" during an exercise with civilian authorities south of Columbia.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Oct. 16, 2009) — The Missouri National Guard’s 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team joined with local civilian authorities on Oct. 15 as part of an exercise at a home south of Columbia.

The focus of the training for the Fort Leonard Wood unit was twofold.

First, the team wanted to support and work with the fire department, police department, HAZMAT team, SWAT team, FBI and bomb squad from Columbia.

“That actually went fairly smooth,” said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Uptegrove, who helped coordinate the exercise. “There were a couple of hiccups, but that’s to be expected when you get that many different agencies involved.”

The second goal wasn’t the usual test to see how well the team could search for and identify possible chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or weapons of mass destruction threats, but rather, how well the team would respond if one of its members went down with an injury.

“We kind of thought outside of the box today,” said Uptegrove, the 7th’s decontamination section noncommissioned officer in charge. “We’re normally dealing with the technical, HAZMAT-kind-of stuff and we wanted to try something a little different on these guys — a scenario that they don’t train on every day, but one that is very important. We have to be able to sustain the ability to extract one of our own team members should something go wrong.”

Staff Sgt. Robyn Boatright, one of the unit’s reconnaissance team chiefs, played the part of the injured person after she fell down a flight of steps in the scenario while making entry in her HAZMAT suit with a member of the civilian authorities to investigate a potentially hazardous agent. At the bottom of the steps, Boatright found herself with a compound fracture in her right forearm that was bleeding profusely. She also was unable to feel her legs.

“It brought realism to our training,” Boatright said of her part as the injured person.

Although the actual damage to Boatright was just Halloween costume makeup, the team responded to the event as if it were real.

“Even though there was a lot of chaos with a lot of different entities at work, everything ceased to take care of me as the injured person,” Boatright said. “Then they resumed work and that was good. It was an organized chaos.”

Suited up and on standby, Sgt. Brian Harvey, the unit’s other reconnaissance team chief, and a member of the civilian HAZMAT team, rushed to Boatright’s aide. Harvey, who is not a medic, let his previous National Guard training take over and took the lead in giving Boatright first aid as he used duct tape to stabilize her arm.

“I just went in there with some tape and bandaged it up,” Harvey said. “I have done some combat lifesaver training before, so it was just good reinforcement training.”

By then, another pair of civilian authorities arrived with a back board that they secured Boatright to before extracting her from the scene.

Harvey said it was realistic training.

“We haven’t done a man-down scenario in a long time,” he said. “It was good to get it in.”

Since she hadn’t reached a potentially contaminated area, Boatright was quickly taken through the decontamination line where she was evaluated by the head of the unit’s medical section, 1st Lt. Jean Le Gall, physician assistant.

“I did a basic ABCs — airway, breathing and circulation — assessment on her,” Le Gall said. “We stopped the bleeding, splinted her arm and she was still breathing, so respiration wasn’t an issue. We stabilized her, moved her into our ambulance and then transported her to University of Missouri-Columbia Hospital.”

Le Gall said he was most impressed by the way the unit’s medical section and the civilian authorities all worked well together for a successful response.

“We’ve never worked with any of them, so that was awesome,” he said. “Everything just fell into place. That was good training.”

After Boatright was stabilized, the exercise continued.

“Operations still had to worry about the potential contamination,” Uptegrove said.

Harvey and his partner made a second entry into the home and completed the objective of getting a good look at a lab setup and securing a sample of the product. That intelligence helped the unit determine that deadly chlorine gas was being produced.

“We do a lot of training every week, so it wasn’t as complicated as some of the exercises that we do just around the unit,” Harvey said. “But it’s always good just getting a chance to practice and get some work in.”

Uptegrove was pleased with the outcome of the exercise.

“All in all, it was a very successful training opportunity with all these different agencies,” Uptegrove said. “It all went very well.”

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