Texas Guardsmen host high school chemistry field trip

Story By: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted on: March 31 2016

Master Sgt. Daniel Griego Students from the Hill Country Christian School of Austin visit the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 24, 2016. The field trip showed the students practical applications of chemistry in the real world and allowed them the opportunity to try on specialized hazardous materials suits. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego)
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Students from the Hill Country Christian School of Austin visit the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 24, 2016. The field trip showed the students practical applications of chemistry in the real world and allowed them the opportunity to try on specialized hazardous materials suits. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego)

High school students from the Hill Country Christian School of Austin took part in a special field trip recently when the Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team welcomed them to Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, for a tour and demonstration of their mission. The trip, held March 24, provided the 47 students an opportunity to experience real-world applications of chemistry through the equipment and techniques used by the 22-person team.

“It honestly blows my mind,” said Holly Wedgeworth, a senior at Hill Country
Christian School of Austin. “They know so much about it and to be able to apply it, especially in very real world situations and very important situations, it’s crazy. It just makes you realize how great these people are.”

The 6th Civil Support Team is a specialized Guard outfit designed for quick responses to chemical and hazardous incidents. Twenty-two full-time service members comprise the team ready to identify, contain, and monitor substances at locations throughout Texas.

“We’re definitely not your traditional Guard unit or Army unit,” said Capt. Brandon Wells, a survey team leader with the 6th CST. “While we do maintain basic Soldier skills as a requirement, our mission set is completely different. 90% of the gear that we use is not standard Army equipment. We go to hours and hours of training taught by PhD-level scientists to learn the ins and outs of what it is we’re required to do for our job.”

During the tour, they allowed the students to try on protective gear, handle sampling equipment, and explore their mobile labs.

“I think they will think more about not just the academic piece,” said Sarah Jo Smith, the class chemistry teacher, “but really think about how these reactions and these principles they are learning actually apply in their day to day lives, not just something from a textbook.”

By providing this tour to high school students, the Texas Guardsmen are able to show a practical side to military service not often known by civilians.

“When I was in high school, I didn’t know that the military offered these kinds of specialty units and jobs,” said Wells. “When you see the real-world application and how you can take that knowledge that you’ve learned, it just drives those learning points home and that’s why we do it.”

The field trip further bridges the gap between National Guardsmen and the communities they support, especially in reinforcing the importance of education.

“I’m very grateful that we got to do this,” said sophomore Amber Carroll. “It makes it more meaningful. I want to do something with chemistry or forensics, so that kind of helps me see how it applies. Actually getting to come out here and see it makes you realize how important and significant it is.”

This is the second year for the school to visit Camp Mabry, with more than double last year’s turnout.

“I think it’s something that we’re going to look to sustain in future years and probably look to expand it,” said Wells.