National Guard’s 7th Civil Support Team completes internal training
By: Matthew J. Wilson/Missouri National Guard Public Affairs
1st Lt. Matthew Marks ensures his microscope is aligned properly as he prepares to identify a chemical agent.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Nov. 20, 2009) — The 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team completed two days of internal training that focused on mission essential tasks this week at Fort Leonard Wood.
The Missouri National Guard team responded to an “incident” at Abrams Theater and another at the training tunnels at the 1st Lt. Joseph Terry Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Responder Training Facility.
The first exercise was coordinated by 1st Lt. Richard Sambolin, the unit’s reconnaissance section officer in charge. In this scenario, the theater was set in Anywhere, USA. A chief of a fire department requested support after six youths presented themselves at a local hospital with signs and symptoms of some type of chemical exposure after attending an evening movie at a local theater. The next day, 30 more people who had been at the same screening became ill.
“That prompted the response and the search for the offending chemical ensued,” Sambolin said.
The goal for the training was to throw something different at the team, said Sambolin, who lives in Waynesville.
“It gives us a look at a different venue — we haven’t trained at a movie theater before,” he said. “The sheer size of the venue itself presents its own considerations because it’s a big building with limited resources. That allows everybody to maximize their potential.”
It was also realistic training, Sambolin said.
“It’s not out of the realm of possibility that a venue of that sort becomes a target for an attack, given the amount of people who are present and that they are in an enclosed location,” he said. “It’s very feasible that someone would try something like that.
“Being that we have the training venue here locally, it’s only natural that we utilize it.”
Overall, Sambolin said the shorthanded team handled the exercise well.
“Based on the findings, they performed rather well,” Sambolin said. “We were able to get some of the junior soldiers on the team another type of experience and give some of the senior soldiers on the team a more difficult task, being that we were operating with 16 of the 22 people who are assigned here. So you have people who were multi-tasking and performing different functions than they normally would. That stretches them and I think that is where the value of the training is.”
The second exercise was facilitated by 1st Lt. Matthew Marks, the unit’s nuclear medicine science officer. The scenario involved a pair of ‘disgruntled employees’ from the facility who were using a training area to produce drugs, hazardous chemicals and explosives. The drugs were to be sold to fund the production of weapons of mass destruction.
The labs the fictional characters used were full of potential hazards.
“The premise of the exercise was to almost overwhelm the reconnaissance team with the number of chemicals and equipment they saw in the labs,” said Marks, who lives in Eldon. “I utilized what the Lt. Terry Facility already had set up for their training venues. It was the operations section’s job was to rule out what was set up for normal training at the facility, and what was the new stuff that the ‘disgruntled employees’ added to the room.”
Marks was pleased with how the unit responded.
“The unit did very well,” Marks said. “The scenario was trying to emphasize the operations section going through and figuring out the training items already there in place and then what those fictional characters were trying to do.
“On the reconnaissance side, it was to give their guys a look at different lab set ups.”
The exercise also proved to be a good opportunity to continue the unit’s good relations with the facility, which was able to grant 7th access to a training area at the last minute.
“The Terry Facility was great in working with us on a last minute venue,” Marks said. “That just emphasizes the good relationships we build through the unit and schoolhouses that train us.”
Both exercises were the first working with the team for Sgt. Hugh Mills, reconnaissance team member.
Mills came to the team from the 3175th Chemical Company, of St. Peters.
“It was a good experience and good training,” Mills said. “It’s a lot better for me to see this aspect of the Hazmat and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive response. I’ve done mass casualty decontamination before, where now I’m in more of a technician role where I look for the source of contamination. So that’s a good thing that I like.”
It also was Mills’ first chance to use some of the team’s advanced detection equipment.
“Learning new gear is always a good thing,” he said.
One thing that struck Mills, who live sin St. Robert, was how serious and enthusiastic the members on the team are about their job.
“Just seeing how the team performs was impressive,” he said. “Everybody is really driven and focused to complete the mission.”