7th Civil Support Team tests ability to fly via Air Guard to training event
By: Matthew J. Wilson/Missouri National Guard Public Affairs
Members of the Missouri National Guard's 7th Civil Support Team unload one of their trailers from an Air Guard C-130 from Peoria, Ill., at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (March 1, 2010) — As part of its yearly training doctrine, the 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, a full-time Missouri National Guard unit based at Fort Leonard Wood, goes through the process of making its tactical vehicles and trailers flight-ready in the event it would need air transport to a real-world incident.
“We are a rapid deployable unit,” said Capt. Theresa Wagner, the team’s operations officer who lives in Saint Robert. “If there would be an incident in New York, we would have to be able to get there within our response time.”
Sgt. 1st Class Juan Gallego, the team’s reconnaissance noncommissioned officer in charge, led the tasking of preparing the trucks for flight.
“It was a lot of hard work,” said Gallego, who lives in Waynesville.
When the civil support teams started in 1999, all 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency regions had one team, and that team needed to be flight-capable so it could quickly respond anywhere in its region.
Recently, the Missouri National Guard team from Fort Leonard Wood not only went through the preparations, but it also executed them as the team flew from post on Air National Guard C-130s for a week of training in Albuquerque, N.M.
“It’s an annual National Guard Bureau requirement, but you don’t actually have to fly,” Wagner said. “You just have to put your equipment on a plane and take it back off. But we decided to utilize the opportunity to fly to a training site.”
The planning, preparation and coordination to get five C-130s to take the team to and from its training location began in July of 2009 and required more than 1,000 man-hours.
Wagner said in a real-world event that required the team to fly, different rules would apply that would allow them to quickly board planes.
“That’s why you have to do it once a year, so that you have your load plans ready,” Wagner said. “I’ll keep a copy of all those so if anything does happen, we’re ready to get on a plane.”
Going in, Wagner said she didn’t realize how much coordination and paperwork went into planning the flights, but was pleased with the results.
“It went great,” she said. “We were successful. I feel successful because I learned so much and I would hope that it was a morale booster for everyone to fly because they didn’t have to drive for 14 hours.”
Staff Sgt. Chester Romine, the team’s assistant operation noncommissioned officer, said he personally spent more than 150 hours on the project on things like making hotel reservations, coordinating flights with several different Air Guard wings and made trailer and car rental reservations.
“Every piece of it was difficult to fit together — it took me three days to find a trailer to rent,” said Romine, who lives in St. James. “The biggest challenge was coordinating the flights. The flights are bid on by Air Guard units from throughout the United States at a quarterly meeting.”
The 182nd Air Wing, of Peoria, Ill., 130th Air Wing, of Charleston, W.Va., 136th Air Wing, of Fort Worth, Texas, 123rd Air Wing, of Louisville, Ky., 118th Air Wing, of Nashville, Tenn., and the 133rd Air Wing, of St. Paul, Minn. each had a part in flying the team to or from the training area.
“They were very amicable,” Romine said. “They agreed with any changes we wanted to make.”
Three members of the 139th Air Wing, of St. Joseph, spent two weeks with the unit to help them develop and execute their load plans.
“They were just doing that to be nice — normally nobody comes in to help you with any of the preparation,” Wagner said.
Although it was a challenge, Romine, who has been in his new position on the team less than four months, said it was good training.
“I learned a lot from doing this,” Romine said.
The first task was to draw a diagram for the Air Guard crews of where every piece of equipment would be stored on the trucks and trailers and then follow that up by placing the equipment where it went according to the plan.
As the team’s reconnaissance NCO, Gallego took charge of many of the logistics.
“Everything has to be packed tightly so it doesn’t bounce around in flight and all the vehicles had to be weighed so the crews knew how much equipment they were transporting,” Gallego said. “All hazardous materials have to have proper paperwork for transport.”
The team also didn’t take all of its trailers on the flights, and therefore had to rearrange equipment to compensate for the loss of cargo space, Gallego said.
Some pieces of the vehicles, like pulling winches and communication satellite dishes, had to be taken off for transport and then reassembled on the ground.
“This had good training value just because it showed the team how much detail and hard work it’s going to take when you do have to fly,” said Gallego. “It’s not just like jumping in the truck and going, like we are more accustomed to.”
Gallego was proud of the way the team pulled together to complete the mission.
“Capt. Wagner did a good job,” he said. “She did a lot of work. It took a lot of work to pull this off.”
Overall, Gallego said it was a fun experience.
“I think it was neat for the team,” Gallego said. “It was something that most of them had never done.”