FLW team trains for response to attack on Missouri's governor
By: Matthew J. Wilson/Missouri National Guard
Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2009 11:57 pm
Spc. Bobby Everett of St. Robert, a member of the Missouri National Guard's 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, tests the pH level of a potentially hazardous chemical during a joint training exercise with Lebanon's civilian authorities.
LEBANON, Mo. (March 5, 2009) — The Missouri National Guard’s 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team based at Fort Leonard Wood conducted joint training exercise with the Lebanon police and fire departments, as well as the Lebanon Hazmat team Wednesday at the Floyd W. Jones Airport.
In the process, the unit got to show some of its capabilities to Brig. Gen. Stephen Danner, who attended the exercise.
Danner, who was appointed as the adjutant general about two months ago, said the 7th Civil Support Team, a 22-person unit made up of Missouri Army and Air Guardsmen, provides a fantastic asset to the state.
“I was really impressed,” Danner said. “The 7th CST was the one unit that was specifically mentioned in the advisory council to the governor’s homeland security meeting. It’s great to see them training hard.”
The exercise centered around three gunmen who used a hangar to concoct both a dangerous chemical and possible biological agent in conjunction with a simulated visit by the governor to the Lebanon airport. The Guard team was able to work with the civilian authorities to alleviate the mock threat.
“These are full-time professionals,” Danner said. “They are well equipped, well trained and they are enthusiastic. You have to have people who want to serve and want to do this, because this is a dangerous job. You never know when you come in a response to a call — you always have to assume the worst. These soldiers and airmen are willing to put themselves on the line for their communities and their fellow citizens.”
Danner said the Guard working side-by-side with the civilian community is its mission.
“We are here absolutely to support civilian authorities — we don’t forget that mission,” he said. “When we come to assist, that is exactly what we are doing. The civilian authorities are in charge and we are there to lend our expertise. We are there to assist them in any way we can.”
For Lt. Col. Raymond White, the unit commander, it was the first exercise back from completing the Civil Support Skills Course at Fort Leonard Wood. He was pleased with the readiness of his team.
“Wednesday’s exercise was outstanding,” he said. “Having just finished eight weeks of training, and then being able to actually apply what was learned during the training was invaluable.
“The cohesion of the team was very evident in how they all come together, working through the problems and coming up with the correct answers.”
White took command of the team in December 2008 and this was the first exercise when he made the majority of the command decisions. He said it was a solid learning experience.
“It was a great opportunity to actually put to use the skills and the knowledge that I’ve learned going through training,” White said.
“Being able to work with the Lebanon police and fire departments was a wonderful joint training exercise. Just the interaction between the police chief, the fire chief and our team really helps build the bigger picture of how we do the job and why we do the job. Our job is to work with the civilian agencies and to support them during crises.”
The Overland Park, Kan., Fire Department’s special operation chief, Henry DuPont, and Lee’s Summit Fire Department battalion chief, Ken Plant, helped coordinate the exercise and gave all responding unit’s high marks.
“They really got great scores,” Danner said. “We were very grateful that they would come a long way to work with us and teach the unit. At the same time, they told me they had some great takeaways that they’ll take back to their home departments based on the operations they saw here today.”
DuPont gave the unit overall high marks, but said he could tell some of the members of the survey team, the group responsible for making entries into the threat zone and recovering samples of possible contaminants, were still in the learning process.
“Most of them were relatively new and that’s difficult for them to have a seasoned entry team leader come down with a newer person and actually try and get something done — to gather the data,” DuPont said. “But they did a very good job for being relatively new. They followed directions well, they knew their equipment and they were communicating the readings on their instruments back.”
Plant was most impressed by the way the team interacted with their civilian counterparts and worked as one big team to deal with the situation.
“I was impressed with their communications as far as when they arrived on the scene. They were very good with communicating with the first-response agencies,” Plant said. “In a situation like this when you have multiple agencies from multiple jurisdictions, it’s critical that they operate under a single action. They have to be able to communicate as a team, so that those operations are done in a cohesive, effective and efficient operation.”
DuPont praised the value of an organization like the 7th Civil Support Team.
“The CST is an extremely valuable asset to us, even if they may not feel that way,” he said. “We have a capability on civilian Hazmat teams to handle 99.9 percent of our calls on a day-to-day basis. But when you throw in a potential weapon of mass destruction incident, we have some instrumentation and some skill to be able to paint the picture that this is well beyond our scope and that’s why we feel very comfortable in calling the civil support team in. We know that they’ve got the expertise and the equipment that we need to truly figure out what is going on.”
It’s important for civilian first-responder agencies to work with their civil support teams, DuPont says, because he can see where it would be difficult for a military organization to integrate into the civilian word.
“With them working together with us and we’ve done it for so long now, it’s now becoming almost seamless,” DuPont said. “They pretty much know how we operate and we know what they bring to the table.”