Saturday, April 14, 2012

South Dakota Guard Civil Support Team trains with civilian first responders

Army Sgt. 1st Class Marcia Hento, from the 82nd Civil Support Team, decontaminates Riley Cook, a member of the South Dakota's Division of Criminal Investigation bomb squad, after he collected samples from a package leaking a hazardous chemical during an emergency response training exercise at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, April 11, 2012. The DCI bomb squad partnered with the South Dakota National Guard's 82nd CST to test equipment and procedures while working together. The CST specializes in chemical, biological and radiological detection and the DCI has expertise with the disposal of explosive ordnances. (Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Theanne Tangen

By Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Theanne Tangen, South Dakota National Guard

KEYSTONE, S.D. – The South Dakota National Guard 82nd Civil Support Team worked through a new training scenario involving the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation's bomb squad and personnel from the National Park Service at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial April 11.

The exercise gave South Dakota's all-hazard response team, the 82nd CST and the state's DCI bomb squad, the opportunity to test their equipment and procedures while working together. The CST specializes in chemical, biological and radiological detection while the DCI has expertise with the disposal of explosive ordnances.

The emergency response exercise was based on a scenario in which a Mount Rushmore park ranger and his bomb detection dog discovered two suspicious packages in the parking lot. One of the packages was leaking fluid causing the ranger and the dog to become ill.

Twenty-two members of the CST and five members of the DCI bomb squad paired up to investigate the suspicious packages.

Having a combination of chemical and bomb materials further enabled both the CST and the DCI to test how the teams will work together in a real life event, said Maj. Dale Gadbois, the 82nd CST operations officer.

"Our Soldiers and Airmen benefit from this training by being able to interact with other agencies in our area with the local first responders, FBI, DCI, and the National Park Service here at Mount Rushmore," Gadbois said. "It's important to practice this in a peace time environment, and the more we practice the better off we will be if an event like this would occur."

To begin the investigation, the DCI sent their bomb disposal HD-1 robot, with the CST's chemical sensors attached to it, to assess the packages.

"Our role is to take care of any explosive device that may or may not be present," said Dan Satterlee, the DCI bomb squad assistant director. "When dealing with any kind of chemical or biological threat, it is hard to operate without the CST. They have equipment and personnel that we don't have, and we have [explosive ordnance disposal] equipment the CST doesn't have."

After the robot assessed the packages, the DCI suited up one of their men, Riley Cook, with a 100 pound bomb suit and a CST oxygen tank and mask to protect him from a possible hazardous chemical.

Cook took samples and x-rays while fully covered in equipment and used the robot to communicate with the rest of the team. Once he extracted the samples from the packages, Cook brought them to the CST's decontamination team and lab for testing.

Ten hours after the CST and the DCI received the initial call, the results confirmed that one package did have a hazardous chemical and the other one was an explosive device. During this particular exercise, the team decided to contain the chemical package and use the robot to disassemble the bomb.

"This training is realistic, and it is a good chance to test our equipment," said Army Staff Sgt. Erik Haivala, a survey team member. "The only thing that is unrealistic is the time frame. An operation like this would take more than a day; it is usually up to a week long. We do work with the National Park Service on a regular basis because this is a high profile place and Mount Rushmore gets millions of visitors every year."

The CST has multiple trainings throughout the year with various state and federal agencies. Each exercise has a unique scenario to give personnel opportunities to train and ensure everyone is well-rounded in their fields, he said.

"I am always able to learn something from these exercises the biggest challenge tends to be our communication skills, but practice makes perfect," Haivala said.