Guard’s 7th Civil Support Team aces external evaluation, earns validation
By: Matthew J. Wilson/Missouri National Guard
Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 11:57 pm
Missouri Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Antony Gordes, left, hands off samples to Army Guard Staff Sgt. Jason Allabaugh during the 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team external evaluation at Rolla.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (April 28, 2009) — Organization, communication and teamwork were the keys to success for the Missouri National Guard’s 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team as it earned its validation from U.S. Army North assessors recently during an external evaluation exercise at the Phelps County Fairgrounds.
“The U.S. Army North evaluators commented on how well-organized the team was,” said Air Guard Lt. Col. Raymond White, commander of the 7th CST. “We implemented a new strategy where we set up our tactical operations center in between our operations section and reconnaissance section, which allows a cross-flow of information amongst the organization. Having it there provides a central command post so that all members of the team can come together to examine the situation and provide input to meeting the unit’s objectives.”
U.S. Army North declared the unit fully-trained in all mission training plan areas.
“I continue to be very impressed with how the team works together,” White said. “This just validates all the training that the team has done and continues to do on a day-to-day basis in preparation for real-world emergencies.”
White said the scenario for the external evaluation was completely different from the pre-external evaluation that happened two weeks ago.
“In the pre-external evaluation, we were given a situation where there were obvious dispersion devices,” White said. “We already knew that there were devices there. Our job was to go in and determine if they were still operating, stop them from spreading contamination, determine what the contamination was and then recommend how to clean it up.
“In the external evaluation, everything was unknown. We had a group of individuals that came together for a breakfast meal and then people started getting sick. There was no evidence of a dispersion device sitting there that we knew of going in.”
White credited the unit’s reconnaissance team for handling the assignment so thoroughly.
“The reconnaissance team actually had to go in there with their monitoring and sampling equipment and determine where and what the source was,” White said. “The quick thinking of the reconnaissance team, on several occasions, reduced the number of entries and the time in the threat zone, which increases the safety of the personnel because they don’t have to be down there as long.”
Two of the reconnaissance team’s senior noncommissioned officers — Sgt. 1st Class Juan Gallego and Staff Sgt. Robyn Boatright — were awarded the U.S. Army North, 5th Army general’s coin of excellence.
Gallego, the noncommissioned officer in charge of recon, and Boatright, a recon team chief, both considered the coins unit honors. Upon receiving his coin, Gallego, took it directly to the unit’s trophy case and placed it inside.
“It wasn’t just me being praised, it’s the whole unit,” said Gallego, who has been with the unit since 2002.
Boatright was praised for her work on the radio, helping relay communications between the entry team and the tactical operations center, as well as her work during an entry into the threat zone.
“It was a team effort,” Boatright said. “I may have been recognized, but we’re a team. I can’t reinforce that enough.”
“The evaluation was great training for all of our new people, good training for us and it’s good to see that we can all work together as a team.”
Gallego said the work of his team chiefs with the junior members of the team has paid off.
“It was good to see the newest people were given the opportunity to step up to the plate and they came through for us,” he said.
Two junior reconnaissance members — Sgts. Brian Harvey and Chester Romine — as well as two members of the decontamination team — Air Guard Tech. Sgt. Anthony Gordes and Army Guard Staff Sgt. Yvonne Lugo — each were awarded the U.S. Army North, 5th Army command sergeant major’s coin of excellence.
“I just feel like I was doing my job,” Lugo said. “Overall it was just a great training experience. To be evaluated by U.S. Army North and validated is excellent. We know that they see we are trained and if called for a real-world mission, we’d be able to respond.”
Harvey considered the recognition a graduation of sorts.
“We’ve been working hard, getting ready for external evaluation for these past few months, so it was really nice to have everybody recognized and just get a pat on the back that says I’ve gotten a lot better as far as my work goes,” Harvey said. “It was real nice. It’s really great and exciting.
“Four of us were hired at the same time. It feels good that we’ve all been working together and everybody has been coming together. I think we’ve all come a long way from when we first started in August to now.”
Harvey and Romine both said they got a lot out of seeing more of how the whole team works together to complete the mission.
“It’s just interesting that you get the signs and symptoms at the beginning of the day and then it’s like a puzzle,” Harvey said. “By the end of the day, the puzzle is put together, so you learn a lot more about the process of solving the puzzle.”
Level A hazmat encapsulated suits were worn by anyone who made an entry into the threat zone and anyone on the decontamination line.
During the return of the first entry team, that consisted of Gallego and Romine, Gordes, who was operating on the decontamination line with Lugo, was told by U.S. Army North that he needed to pretend to pass out as part of a man-down scenario the team must pass for validation. It was a different wrinkle for the team to see, because the man-down usually happens to someone on the entry team.
“The man down at the decon line really threw me for a loop. I wasn’t expecting that at all,” Romine said. “We had never trained for that.”
The unit, however, was prepared with plenty of back-up assistance that helped quickly and safely remove Gordes from the decontamination line.
“I had to make sure that Tech Sgt. Gordes was responsive while others came on to take him off the line,” Lugo said. “This was the first time I’d experienced a man down on the decon line.”
The team’s medical staff then took over to “stabilize” Gordes and “transport” him to a nearby hospital.
Staff Sgt. Jamie Turner, who was on standby in his level A gear, replaced Gordes on the decontamination line, which allowed Romine and Gallego to go through decontamination normally.
“Had it not been for Staff Sgt. Turner being prepared, if we were in an emergency situation where we were running out of air, we would have been in trouble,” Romine said.
Boatright and Harvey had to overcome an unscheduled obstacle during the second entry when Harvey’s air supply ran low.
“That was the first time that’s happened,” Harvey said. “I noticed my alarm was going off. I think I still had about 10 minutes of air left.”
Boatright put the mission on hold and made sure Harvey was immediately taken to the decontamination line. At the line, Harvey began the decontamination process while Sgt. Herbert Wolf, who was on standby in level A gear, joined Boatright and returned to complete the second-entry mission.
“Everybody was really professional and they got me through decon very quickly,” Harvey said. “It was just good teamwork and Staff Sgt. Boatright made sure she got that last sample. That saved a lot of time on our day, even though I came out of the game, so to speak. They still picked me up and we still got the sample.”
The medical staff received high marks for its sample preparation and ability to respond in the man-down scenario.
“We followed our standard operating procedures and our standard text manual for sample preparation and analysis,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Allabaugh, the team’s medical noncommissioned officer. “We had some good communication on the man-down scenario and we already knew prior what our roles were.”
Allabaugh said he was pleased with the results of the external evaluation.
“I’m more confident in being able to do my job,” Allabaugh said.