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American Forces Press Service News Article

Guardsmen Training to Aid Civil Leaders in WMD Crises

 

  By Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wedeking
  
Special to the American Forces Press Service
 
 FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- About 220 National Guardsmen from 
 across the nation are training here through mid-August to help 
 civilian authorities rapidly react to potential terrorist 
 incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. 
 
 The Army and Air National Guard troops said they are eagerly 
 soaking up the knowledge they need. That means becoming experts 
 in nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological sampling, 
 detection and decontamination; the functions of air re-breathers 
 and other protective wear; emergency communications; and 
 coordinating other civil-military operations.
 
 "I used to watch the television and the news reports about 
 hurricanes, tornadoes, bombings and other disasters and I would 
 say to myself, 'Gee, I wish there was something I could do to 
 help. Well, now I'm doing something to help the country,'" said 
 Washington Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jane Bonner, a 
 hazardous modeling specialist with the 10th Military Support 
 Detachment of Tacoma, Wash.
 
 "The military support detachments will serve as the tip of the 
 military response spear to weapons of mass destruction attacks," 
 said Maj. Tammy Miracle, a National Guard Bureau spokeswoman in 
 Arlington, Va. "These detachments [will] help local responders 
 assess the situation, determine possible responses and request 
 state or federal aid.
 
 "Specifically, the detachments can survey an attack area to 
 determine the nature and extent of contamination," she 
 continued. "They are equipped with chemical, biological and 
 radiological protective and monitoring equipment, and advanced 
 communications and automation equipment to assist and augment 
 first-response authorities, she said.
 
 The National Guard established 10 military support detachments 
 and expects all to have an initial operational capacity by the 
 end of 1999. One detachment was assigned to each Federal 
 Emergency Management Agency region. They were co-located with 
 Air Guard aviation units so they could arrange troop and 
 equipment airlifts quickly. Stations are in Natick, Mass.; 
 Scotia, N.Y.; Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.; Marietta, Ga.; Peoria, 
 Ill.; Austin, Texas; Fort Leonard Wood; Aurora, Colo.; Los 
 Alamitos, Calif.; and Tacoma. 
 
 From the beginning, the units have also been called Rapid 
 Assessment Initial Detection teams, but some members note they 
 won't use that name because its acronym, RAID, begs 
 misinterpretation.
 
 "We train our people to be analytical thinkers. We don't train 
 them to bust down doors," said Georgia Army National Guard Capt. 
 Jeff Allen, a survey team leader for the 4th Military Support 
 Detachment, Dobbins Air Force Reserve Base, Marietta. 
 
 Detachments are training primarily with civilian subject-matter 
 experts contracted for new-equipment training. They know they're 
 in a fishbowl. They've been watched continually by First Army 
 and Fifth Army observers and controllers, and representatives 
 from the Pentagon's Consequence Management Program Integration 
 Office and other DoD agencies.
 
 The detachments respond to concerns of national leaders and 
 planners who believe the United States faces the threat of 
 terrorism involving nuclear, biological or chemical agents, 
 similar to the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack. The citizen-
 soldiers and airmen training here are equally convinced that 
 preparedness for such unfortunate incidents is crucial.
 
 "It's not a matter of if an attack is going to happen, but 
 when," said Illinois Army National Guard Sgt. Harold Cubillo, a 
 third-year computer and political science major at Northern 
 Illinois University in DeKalb and a survey team specialist with 
 the 5th Military Support Detachment in Peoria.
 
 Georgia's Allen said the detachments are brimming with nuclear, 
 biological, chemical and radiological subject-matter experts and 
 others holding both civilian and military-acquired skills 
 relating to homeland defense.
 
 "This equipment we use is high-speed, low-drag stuff so we have 
 to have quality people in this unit," said Allen, an Atlanta 
 resident and former senior scientist with the Georgia 
 Environmental Protection Division. "I left a good job on the 
 civilian side to be on the team, but this is something I really 
 wanted to do.
 
 "The training has been good," he added. "But we're looking 
 forward to getting our equipment and doing our individual and 
 collective training at home station, and then getting together 
 with the police and fire departments -- letting them know what 
 we're capable of."
 
 "It's dangerous business, but being a soldier -- that's part of 
 your job," said Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Michael 
 Sullivan, survey team member with the 6th Military Support 
 Detachment in Austin. "This is a very dangerous business we're 
 in, so our training here is extremely important."
 
 "They have been great. They seem to be enjoying the training and 
 they're enthusiastic," said instructor Robert Mayhew of 
 Stafford, Va. He also commended National Guard leadership for 
 establishing high qualification standards for detachment 
 members. "They looked for soldiers who are mentally and 
 physically ready to handle this. There was a strict selection 
 process."
 
 Pennsylvania Army National Guard 1st Lt. James Gerrity, a 3rd 
 Military Support Detachment operations officer at Indiantown 
 Gap, said members with a wealth of civilian and military-
 acquired skills fill the units.
 
 "We have NBC [nuclear, biological and chemical] NCOs 
 [noncommissioned officers] we picked up from the active Army 
 [and Guard]. We also have medical people, physicians assistants, 
 EOD [explosive ordnance disposal], and people who worked at fire 
 departments as first responders or EMTs [emergency medical 
 technicians]," Gerrity said. Other troops who signed on full-
 time include chemists, physicists and nuclear technicians, to 
 name a few, he said.
 
 The National Guard is community oriented, he said. That is 
 exactly why it will be a key component in supporting local 
 police and fire departments and other first responders during an 
 actual crisis," he concluded.
 
 [Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wedeking is assigned to the National Guard 
 Bureau Public Affairs Support Element.]
 
 
Washington Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jane Bonner (left) and Sgt. 1st Class Charles Smith disassemble an air regulator during air re-breather training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. The two soldiers are assigned to the 10th Military Support Detachment of Tacoma. They are among more than 200 National Guardsmen from across the nation taking part in training through mid-August at Leonard Wood designed to help them help civilian authorities react to potential weapons of mass destruction threats. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wedeking.
Washington Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jane Bonner (left) and Sgt. 1st Class Charles Smith disassemble an air regulator during air re-breather training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. The two soldiers are assigned to the 10th Military Support Detachment of Tacoma. They are among more than 200 National Guardsmen from across the nation taking part in training through mid-August at Leonard Wood designed to help them help civilian authorities react to potential weapons of mass destruction threats. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wedeking.
Two New York Army National Guardsmen of the 2nd Military Support Detachment, Scotia, N.Y., clean their protective clothing during the decontamination training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. More than 200 National Guardsmen from across the nation are taking part in a training program through mid- August at Leonard Wood designed to help them help civilian authorities react to potential weapons of mass destruction threats. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wedeking.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. Kimberly Ferraro (left), a decontamination specialist with the Scotia, N.Y.,- based 2nd Military Support Detachment, cleans the protective suit of a classmate after during decontamination training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. More than 200 National Guardsmen from across the nation are taking part in a training program through mid-August at Leonard Wood designed to help them help civilian authorities react to potential weapons of mass destruction threats. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wedeking.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. Sandra Moody (right) of Buffalo, N.Y., and the 2nd Military Support Detachment tries to avoid contact with simulated contaminants as a classmate cleans her protective suit during during decontamination training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. More than 200 National Guardsmen from across the nation are taking part in a training program through mid-August at Leonard Wood designed to help them help civilian authorities react to potential weapons of mass destruction threats. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wedeking.
Instructor Robert J. Mayhew lectures National Guard military support detachment members on the use of chemical detection devices. More than 200 Guardsmen from across the nation are taking part in a training program through mid-August at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., designed to help them help civilian authorities react to potential weapons of mass destruction threats. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wedeking.
Washington Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jane Bonner of Shelton (left) signals Sgt. 1st Class Charles Smith with four fingers to show she still has 400 pounds per square inch of air left in a re-breather pack during team training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. The two soldiers are assigned to the 10th Military Support Detachment of Tacoma. They are among more than 200 National Guardsmen from across the nation taking part in training through mid-August at Leonard Wood designed to help them help civilian authorities react to potential weapons of mass destruction threats. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wedeking.

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Aug1999/n08021999_9908022.html