Index

American Forces Press Service

Guard Teams to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction

 

  By Jim Garamone
  
 American Forces Press Service
 

 WASHINGTON -- DoD announced plans Jan. 13 to form 17 more 
 Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams, bringing 
 the total nationwide to 27.
 
 The teams, originally called Rapid Assessment and Detection 
 teams, would deploy and assist civil first responders in 
 the event of a weapons of mass destruction incident, said 
 Charles Cragin, principal deputy assistant secretary of 
 defense for reserve affairs.
 
 The federal government will train, equip and develop 
 doctrine for the teams, Cragin said. The teams will always 
 work in support of civilian agencies and unless federalized 
 will remain under the control of the governors of the host 
 state.
 
 The new teams will be based in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, 
 California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, 
 Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, 
 South Carolina and Virginia. They will come on line in 2001 
 between March and July.
 
 The first 10 designated teams are completing training and 
 are scheduled to come on line in April 2000 in Colorado, 
 Georgia, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Missouri, New 
 York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.
 
 The teams “work collaboratively with local and state first 
 providers,” Cragin said. “The teams consist of 22 full-time 
 members of the Army or Air National Guard. The personnel 
 selected for these additional teams will undergo 15 months 
 of rigorous individual and unit training and then will be 
 evaluated for operational certification.”
 
 This is the second phase of an initiative started in fiscal 
 1998. “[Defense Secretary William Cohen] was apprised by 
 first responders in many communities that one bit of 
 expertise they needed was the technical expertise to 
 identify and assess particular chemical or biological 
 agents that may be the instrument of a terrorist attack,” 
 Cragin said. These teams give local officials that 
 capability.
 
 The units have two major pieces of equipment: a mobile 
 analytical lab and a mobile communications facility. The 
 first allows the teams to identify chemical and biological 
 agents in the field. The second allows the team to 
 coordinate communications among the first responders and 
 all other areas. 
 
 "If they need information from a medical laboratory, they 
 can connect from the van,” Cragin said. The team’s 
 communications capability also allows all local, state and 
 federal authorities to speak to each other.
 
 While the 27 teams will be based in 26 states -- California 
 will have two teams-- local agreements will allow the teams 
 to work across state lines. So, for example, the New York 
 team could answer a call in Connecticut and the Illinois 
 team could work in Wisconsin.