CAMP MABRY, Texas - About 20 members of the National Guard's 6th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team (CST), headquartered here, conducted joint-service training involving C-130 Hercules aircraft and crews assigned to the Texas Air National Guard's 136th Airlift Wing at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Dec. 5, 2012.
The aircraft loading operation was part of a three-day training mission for the 6th CST, which is responsible for responding to disasters and catastrophic events, said Air Force Maj. Michael A. Torres, the unit's deputy commander. When activated by civil authorities, the CST deploys an advance party to the site of the incident, within 90 minutes of notification, and they must be self sustainable for a minimum of 72 hours.
"The idea for the [C-130] training was to use organic assets within the state in a way that could help us quickly deploy and integrate with our civilian partners," Torres said. "Ultimately, we work for the [civilian] incident commander."
"The CST is different than other civilian counterparts, in that it possesses a mobile, analytical laboratory, which provides on-scene, presumptive analysis, allowing incident commander's to quickly implement life saving actions," he said.
The organization is comprised of full-time, Title 32, Army and Air National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, who have been trained in: operations; administration and logistics; communications; medical science; and reconnaissance and survey operations.
"We're built up from many specialties, but we are all trained HAZMAT technicians and specialists," Torres said. "We train all year in different scenarios and situations to support our first responders."
Torres said there are 57 CSTs located throughout the United States, with at least one in each state and territory, and that the concept was developed in 1999. National Guard assets, similar to CSTs, have assisted in the response to: the 9/11 terrorist attacks; the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster; Hurricane Katrina; and numerous high profile events at large population venues.
During the recent training, 6th CST members coordinated with 136th Airlift Wing personnel to load equipment and vehicles onto the tactical cargo aircraft.
In addition to the 6th CST, the Texas Air Guard benefited from the training activities, said Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Suelzer, the domestic operations officer for the Texas Air National Guard and chief of staff for Joint Task Force 71 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade).
"The 136th Airlift Wing conducts training throughout the year to maintain a regional and national response capability across the full spectrum of domestic operations," Suelzer said, "from hurricane support to CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) Consequence Management."
The 136th Airlift Wing's C-130s are available to the Texas governor for disaster relief efforts, and are the only such Air National Guard aircraft controlled by a state along the United States' Gulf Coast.
"The 136th, with its hard-working people and responsive airlift capability, is a state treasure and a key regional asset," said Suelzer.
Additional joint-training is likely to be developed for the 6th CST and the 136th Airlift Wing to conduct in the future, Torres and Suelzer said.
"Training with the 136th [Airlift Wing] provided the opportunity to validate planning, as well as identify future force packaging needs and priorities," Torres said, "depending on the number of aircraft available in an actual emergency response."