|Guard’s 7th Civil Support Team tests training with split operations exercise
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (March 10, 2010) — After spending four days learning about identifying and locating radiation sources, members of the 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team from Fort Leonard Wood were able to put what they learned into practice through an exercise.
Missouri National Guard Staff Sgt. Brian Harvey, right, leads Sgts. Kyle Weber and Joe Ramsey through an airplane crash site searching for radiological sources during a 7th Civil Support Team exercise in New Mexico.
The training and exercise was provided by the Defense Nuclear Weapons School of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M.
The agency is the U.S. Department of Defense’s official combat support agency for countering weapons of mass destruction. The instructors are subject matter experts on weapons of mass destruction, who address the entire spectrum of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosive threats.
The exercise scenario consisted of an airplane that carried radiological material that took off from Kirtland and was presumably shot down by terrorists. At the crash site, a person, who drove a white pickup, was seen gathering some wreckage from the cargo and took it to a different location.
The team’s job was to locate the flight manifest and account for all the radiological material that was listed on it.
The major wrinkle in the exercise was for the 22-member Missouri National Guard unit to be forced to divide its resources to respond to several incident sites.
“One of the objectives of the leadership was to tax and stress the unit, and that objective was met,” said Lt. Col. Raymond White, the team’s commander. “This was our first split-operations exercise. It was stressful on the unit, but it was also a very good learning experience.”
Benefiting most from the training were the four new members of the unit, three of them — Air Guard Staff Sgt. Anthony Klenke and Army Guard Sgts. Joe Ramsey and Kyle Weber — on the unit’s reconnaissance team.
Staff Sgt. Juan Gallego, recon’s noncommissioned officer in charge, was impressed with his inexperienced troops in their first full-scale exercise.
“Despite having no formal training, the three newest members of recon performed immaculately,” said Gallego, who lives in Waynesville. “They performed without hesitation, even though they had a lack of knowledge from not yet completing their military occupational specialty school. Their hard work and drive made up for their lack of knowledge.”
The team of Ramsey and Weber, led by Staff Sgt. Brian Harvey, one of two recon team chiefs, were sent into the crash area to locate the manifest and search for radiological isotopes.
Weber surpassed Gallego’s expectations with his mathematical ability on the readings the team picked up that help determine the severity of the radiation.
“He used the inverse square law on calculating out how far a reading will come off a radiological isotope,” Gallego said. “He understood the concepts of what the inverse square law is and he performed that mission without hesitation.
“Initially, we thought that would take like 30 minutes and we knocked it out in like five.”
Ramsey followed the training he had received earlier in the week and was able to take reading and excel in creating a 5-meter by 5-meter radiological detection grid, Gallego said.
“He used it to check for contamination,” Gallego said. “He did that well.”
Ramsey called the exercise a worthwhile learning experience.
“I had no idea what to expect going into this — all I knew was we were going to New Mexico for radiation training,” said Ramsey, of Rolla. “It was a lot of fun.”
Ramsey said the training he received at the course prepared him well for the exercise.
“It was way above what I expected — the math and all the different formulas,” he said. “The training was good as I was able to learn about radiation and how our equipment reacts to it — that was the best thing.
“Before I didn’t know what the readings on our equipment meant when it was giving me numbers. Now, I do,” Ramsey said.
The experience of working with real radiation is what Ramsey said was the most important thing he took from the exercise.
Klenke was part of the second site of the exercise, where the person driving the white pickup had possibly taken radiological material. Staff Sgt. Robyn Boatright, the other recon team chief, and Klenke made the initial search at that site.
“Staff Sgt. Klenke did a real good job on site characterization and using the equipment to identify the radiological isotopes in the container,” Gallego said.
As the newest member of the team, Klenke said he found the exercise interesting.
“I learned a lot,” said Klenke, who lives at Fort Leonard Wood. “It was my first time in the encapsulated hazmat suit. It’s not like walking around in the airman battle uniform, but being in the suit was kind of fun. It’s not something you want to do for real — you don’t want to think about the real-world situations we train for — but going down to the site in protective gear and trying to solve the puzzle was exciting.”
The training, Klenke said, should provide solid preparation for his upcoming civil support skills course — his Air Force specialty code — at Fort Leonard Wood.
“Getting hands on with the equipment was amazing,” Klenke said. “I know some people didn’t like going into the weeds on it, but for me, that kind of gave me a quick primer on how all of this stuff works. It gave me more of a starting point from which to employ the equipment.”
Overall, Gallego was pleased with the training value of the exercise for his new troops and their stamina.
“Basically all three guys, just from the classroom instruction, demonstrated what they had learned very well,” Gallego said. “We did split operations, which is not only taxing for a senior reconnaissance team, but is very challenging for new soldiers and airmen. I’m proud that everybody performed above the standard, even the team chiefs.”
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