Friday, May 11, 2012

North Dakota National Guard's 81st Civil Support Team trains with Department of Energy, other agencies

MINOT, N.D. - Members of the North Dakota National Guard’s 81st Civil Support Team, based in Bismarck N.D., participated in a three-day Nuclear Weapons Accident/Incident Exercise at Minot Air Force Base.

The exercise involved nearly 400 people from agencies including the Department of Energy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Air Force’s 5th Bomb Wing, as well as the North Dakota Guard. The exercise served as a way to hone the specialized skills of the CST.

“The Civil Support team is an important asset for responding to domestic emergencies and operations around the state,” said Army Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, adjutant general of the North Dakota Guard. “Practicing and training on response is the best way for the CST to remain a relevant and ready force for our community.”

The exercise scenario had the 81st CST responding to an aircraft with weapons aboard that sustained damaged from a tornado. The actual damage and event may have been simulated, but the actions of the CST members were as if it were a real event.

“We received the call and linked up with the Department of Energy,” said Lt. Col. Larry Shireley, commander of the 81st CST. “Members of our team are augmenting their team.”

Shireley said that the main role of the 81st CST during the exercise was to provide coordination and assistance to the other groups there. Their main task was to work with a team from Department of Energy’s Radiation Assistance Program to monitor the surrounding area and to take samples to determine whether there had been a radiation release.

In this situation, the 81st CST provided a valuable link between the North Dakota Guard, and the responding federal agencies.

“Our job is to assist them to determine whether radiation had been released and provide recommendations for the health and safety in the surrounding area,” said Capt. David Jablonsky, with the 81st CST. “We’ve also had the opportunity to train and work with the Department of Energy RAP team. This exercise provides us an additional opportunity to enhance those skills.”

Jablonsky said the 81st CST has responded to two actual missile recovery missions in rural areas of North Dakota. The CST provided on-site communications support for the Air Force during these recovery missions.

In the end, the major benefit of the exercise is simply building relationships.

“Good relations between state and federal agencies are being built here,” said Maj. Lila Teunissen, medical operations officer with the 81st CST.