National Guard hazmat trains for response to attack on SR City Council
By: Matthew J. Wilson/Missouri National Guard
Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2009 4:07 pm
ST. ROBERT, Mo. (March 5, 2009) — The Missouri National Guard’s 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team followed four days of specialized training with a joint exercise Feb. 27 that included the St. Robert Hazardous Materials Team and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Davis Defense Group instructed the unit and was the joint training exercise facilitator as part of its Survey Characterization and Monitoring Course.
“Basically, the 7th Civil Support Team has a HAZMAT entry team and this course is designed to assist them in working on their procedures in a contaminated environment,” said Sean Hagerty, a Davis Defense Group senior function analyst.
Hagerty himself is a former member of the Guard civil support team from who served as a member of the survey team and as logistics noncommissioned officer from its inception in 1999 until 2002. He retired from the Guard as a sergeant first class and now lives in Waynesville, where he has continued working in the emergency response community.
“Since I’ve left the team, I’ve been working with the civil support teams nationwide in a number of different roles,” said Hagerty.
2nd Lt. Richard Sambolin, the unit’s survey team leader, said his group benefited from the class and exercise.
“I believe that the class emphasized some of the basics of the operation and interpretation of the detection equipment and the analysis equipment for the determination of unknown substances,” he said. “I think Friday was a culmination of trying to bring all the tools that were taught throughout the week to see how well we assimilated the information and we were able to put into practice some of the tactics, techniques and procedures that were outlined throughout the week.”
The simulated two-part scenario for Friday’s exercise consisted of a chemical being released at a city council meeting at the St. Robert Municipal Building and an explosion in the parking lot outside.
“Basically what we surmised was this whole thing was put together by a disgruntled retired military individual that was mad at the city for taxes and he was attacking the city,” Hagerty said. “His thought was that he was going to attack the city council, and then the first responders through this bomb he set up in the parking lot.”
The HAZMAT team made the initial entry around 9:30 a.m., followed by two groups from the 7th Civil Support Team and another from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
One of the Guard teams radioed back some key information to get the unit’s medical staff rolling on finding a solution to what the contaminant could possibly be.
“Survey did an excellent job identifying what it was and called back the chemical name and I recognized the formula,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Marks, the team’s nuclear medicine science officer.
After samples from two green backpacks from inside the city council chambers and a white powdery substance found near the parking lot explosion were gathered, each team went through a decontamination line made up of civilian and Guard components.
“The target product that we were after matched the signs and symptoms,” Marks said. “Then all I had to do was analyze and confirm.”
The result was that the chemical was mustard gas, while the white powder contained low levels of radiation.
The exercise was completed by 3 p.m.
“All responding agencies knocked this thing out in an exemplary manor,” Hagerty said. “When we put this exercise together, we expected to be here until about 8 p.m. tonight. It’s pretty early, for what they did. They were able to go in and get things done in a rush and they did it in a manner that was safe for all the responding agencies, as well as providing a quick answer for medical treatment for exposed personnel and the general public.”
“I think we performed as well as expected,” he said. “I think some of the new soldiers gained a lot of new information. They were able to put hands on to the lecture portion of the training, which marries it together. That’s where the understanding really comes to fruition.”
Sambolin said it was another good opportunity to work with their civilian counterparts.
“Anytime we get the opportunity to work with outside agencies promotes the brotherhood within the first responder community,” Sambolin said.
St. Robert Fire Chief Charles Fraley was pleased with the way all the components — both civilian and military — worked together to tackle the exercise.
“I think it was awesome training for all of us,” Fraley said. “It helped bridge the gap between the military and the civilian sector. We have the 7th in our back yard stationed at Fort Leonard Wood and it’s just a great opportunity to be able to train with them in case we ever have to go on a real scene.”
Although the St. Robert Hazardous Materials Team trains regularly with other area civilian emergency responders, Fraley said it is just the second time that it has gone through an exercise with Missouri’s only civil support team.
“We want to improve with the 7th,” Fraley said. “I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen of our department. Everybody had to step up.”
Lt. Calandra Mason of the St. Robert Fire Department served as the civilian incident commander for the exercise and said it was a good learning experience.
“I love training with other people,” Mason said. “It also helped me evaluate myself and the team. Since I am one of the shift leaders, what would I do if the chief wasn’t there? So this helped me to see what I need to improve on, so when the chief is not there, I’ll be able to handle anything, regardless. So I can go back and see what I need to work on as a leader.”
Mason was also pleased with how the St. Robert Hazardous Materials Team stacked up.
“I think we’ve got a good program at St. Robert because a lot of stuff that we already had out, the Guard decided to use what we already had,” she said. “So that helps me have a lot more confidence in what we’re doing — we’re doing a good job already.”
Overall, Hagerty was impressed with the 7th Civil support Team’s efforts through the weeklong course.
“These guys know what they are doing real well,” Hagerty said. “They are like a knife; all we do is help them keep the edge on it.”