Texas response team exceeds validation standards

Story By: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted On: April 6, 2016

Master Sgt. Daniel Griego Army Sgt. John Cornejo of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support team prepares monitoring equipment during the unit's Training Proficiency Evaluation at the DFW International Airport's Fire Training Research Center March 29, 2016. This evaluation is the official certifying exercise, conducted by U.S. Army North, for the 6th CST to continue service as the state's premier military support element for hazardous materials incidents. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Army Sgt. John Cornejo of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support team prepares monitoring equipment during the unit's Training Proficiency Evaluation at the DFW International Airport's Fire Training Research Center March 29, 2016. This evaluation is the official certifying exercise, conducted by U.S. Army North, for the 6th CST to continue service as the state's premier military support element for hazardous materials incidents. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

When one’s mission is to respond to no-notice incidents involving hazardous materials, there is very little room for error. The men and women of the Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team are in a constant state of heightened alert and readiness. From March 29-31, that readiness was put to the test as the team conducted its Task Performance Evaluation, a series of simulated disaster scenarios that certifies the Guard asset to continue its statewide mission.

“The reason we’re evaluated is to make sure that we’re actually operable in the real world,” said Staff Sgt. Carolina Dilger, the decontamination NCO for the 6th Civil Support Team. “It’s catered more toward real-world threats, things we might actually encounter.”

The validation, required every 18 months and held this time at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s Fire Training Research Center, is conducted by U.S. Army North and reinforces the standards all 54 civil support teams throughout the country must demonstrate proficiency in.

“Army North is mandated by congress with the CST program that we are the official evaluators for their certification to keep on marching,” said Steven Wisniewski, an observer controller/trainer with U.S. Army North. “We try to put on an exercise that would emulate real-world possibilities, as far as this team reacting, responding to a terrorist threat against the homeland involving weapons of mass destruction.”

The 6th Civil Support Team was one of the first teams in the nation to gain initial certification in June 2001. Since then, it has consistently exceeded the standards in its response mission. At the close of this year’s validation, it walked away with the highest ratings across all evaluated tasks.

“This program is not in its infancy anymore,” said Wisniewski. “They have gone from crawling baby steps to coming into a world with high technology, high-speed, highly educated skill sets to tackle the problems they may face.”

Also on site for the training were Col. Scott Mac Leod, the commander of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), and Lt. Col. Oliver Mintz, the brigade operations officer. JTF-136 (MEB) is the National Guard higher headquarters for the 6th CST.

“I’ve been really impressed with the efficiency and the professionalism of the Soldiers in this unit,” said Mintz. “They truly have an understanding of what they’re doing, they’re committed to the mission and they’re extremely professional in everything that they undertake.”

Although the 6th CST excelled in their validation, they are always looking to improve and better serve their state as a response element.

“For the commander, Lt. Col. Phillips, it’s always an opportunity to use an evaluation to assess the performance capability of his team,” said Mac Leod. “As he goes through this evaluation, he’ll be looking for gaps in capability, whether that be training, equipment, logistics, anything that he needs to continue to focus on as he looks at his next training year.”

With this renewed validation under their belts, the members of the CST look toward their next opportunity to showcase their capabilities for their civil and regional partners. In April, they’ll join the emergency response community in San Antonio for the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s annual conference.

“Our CST has a fantastic reputation,” said Mac Leod, “both inside the state and out. They’re a highly trained team; they do well in everything that they do.”