Texas Guardsmen learn disaster response from the best

Story by: Maj. Chol Chong

Posted: June 9, 2016

Photo By Lt. Col. William Phillips | Members of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team, headquartered in Austin, conduct biological target lane training in Corpus Christi, Texas, with Dugway Proving Ground's Special Projects Division and the Corpus Christi Fire Department HAZMAT team, June 9, 2016. The training includes two days of scenario-based lanes and one day of classroom instruction. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. William Phillips/Released)
Photo By Lt. Col. William Phillips | Members of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team, headquartered in Austin, conduct biological target lane training in Corpus Christi, Texas, with Dugway Proving Ground's Special Projects Division and the Corpus Christi Fire Department HAZMAT team, June 9, 2016. The training includes two days of scenario-based lanes and one day of classroom instruction. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. William Phillips/Released)  

The Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team is one of the first lines of defense following a chemical, biological, radioactive, or nuclear incident. This joint outfit of 22 full-time personnel is always on call, and always ready to react when disaster strikes. Such vigilance requires regular training and mission proficiency, especially with the agencies they’d most likely serve alongside. Most recently, they demonstrated this expertise in Corpus Christi, Texas, with the support of the Corpus Christi Fire Department and personnel from the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground out of Utah. From June 7-9, these experts in emergency response conducted specific target biological threat awareness training, engaging various scenarios to perfect their interoperability and processes.

“The members of the 6th CST increased their operating skills and further developed their understanding of the Tactics, Techniques & Procedures Development process by responding to multiple unknown threats using a progressive crawl-walk-run method of training,” said Jaromy D. Jessop, the Dugway Proving Ground Special Programs Division Program Manager.

The Proving Ground personnel were specifically requested by the 6th CST for their professionalism and experience in CBRN incidents. They contributed classroom instruction and scenario exercises to the team throughout the three days in Corpus Christi.

"Training with true subject matter experts is always of great benefit,” said Army Capt. Brandon M. Wells, a survey team leader with the 6th CST. Dugway Proving Ground is one of only a few facilities that really understands the science behind CBRN response considerations.”

Dugway Proving Ground set up a single training lane on day one at a storage facility that used to be a functional firefighter station house in Corpus Christi. The 6th CST was tasked to determine the threat, sample the findings, and provide mitigation recommendations to the incident commander, played by Jessop. The 6th CST conducted site reconnaissance, sampling, and threat mitigations, with feedback from their on-site partners.

“A critical mission for the 6th CST is to provide Defense Support to Civil Authorities,” said Jessop. “The no notice response training increased the unit's ability to assist civil authorities when asked to react to an unknown CBRN threat.”

The final day of training pitted the CST against two separate buildings at the firehouse station in order to solve multiple complex problems to the complete the satisfaction of the incident commander. Meanwhile, their civil partners from the local fire department learned about the resources their military counterparts could bring to an emergency situation.

“The event further strengthen relationships with Corpus Christi Fire Department personnel who observed portions of the event and provided the training facility,” said Jessop.

In addition to providing performance feedback, Dugway Proving Ground conducted a detailed class on Tactics, Techniques, and Procedure Developments, focusing on the fundamentals of microbiology, agents of bioterrorism, sampling biological threats, and biological decontamination.

“Because of their wealth of knowledge,” said Wells, “Mr. Jessop and his team were able to facilitate an excellent training lane that not only challenged our team during site characterization and sample collection, but also with problem solving and the analysis of potential CBRN hazards."