National Guard Support Team visits Winnemucca

National Guard Support Team visits Winnemucca

National Guard Support Team visits Winnemucca

First responders in the city and county had an opportunity on Tuesday to meet members of the National Guard's Civil Support Team (CST), tour many of the team's response vehicles and learn more about their capabilities. The Nevada National Guard's CST is a specialized unit with highly trained personnel and state-of-the-art equipment. Their mission is to assist local first responders in dealing with emergencies that exceed their capabilities.

The National Guard website states that CST is one of the first lines of defense against chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear threats and the National Guardsmen who qualify for the team are some of the most technologically advanced troops in the entire army. They're able to rapidly deploy to help determine the nature of a threat and work to mitigate it to protect people in the area.

There is a National Guard CST in each US state and territory and there are two teams in New York, Florida and California. Nevada's CST has been in existence for the past 14 years. The team has been stationed in Carson City for the past two years. Before that, it was stationed in Las Vegas. Governor Brian Sandoval moved the team to Carson City as a more central location for the state.

The CST guardsmen traveled last week to Winnemucca and Elko with eight of their specialized vehicles and the team of National Guardsmen who make up this elite unit. They met with first responders in each community to familiarize them with their equipment, personnel and capabilities, and to go over the ways they can be contacted and brought in to assist with an incident.

Among the 22 full-time service members from both the Air and Army National Guard, the CRT includes a commander, operations specialist, physician's assistant and medics as well as communications, science and hazardous materials experts. Full-time members of the National Guard compete for spots on the team. Every member who successfully competes for a spot on the team goes to two months of general hazardous materials and basic medical training. One team member said the training was difficult, that it included two weeks of chemistry alone — which he hadn't done since high school.

After the general training, team members divide up and receive more individualized training depending on their particular function with the team, their specialty.

Guardsmen on the team have the opportunity to change positions and gain additional training for different specialties within the team. Each additional skill area increases their value to the team and to response situations.

Two survey vehicles bring the Initial Response Team (IRT) to assess the scene. As the threat is assessed, the IRT members can request additional CST assets as required to meet the needs of the incident. The CST supports local incident commanders and local emergency responders and state and federal agencies including the FBI, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Homeland Security.

A science officer and lab technicians, expert in identifying unknown substances, work out of a vehicle that contains a state of the art laboratory. This mobile lab has the same credentialing and licensing certifications as the state lab and which can turn around results in a very short time.

Communications specialists can operate out of two vehicles equipped with satellite dishes and advanced communications equipment. They can establish Internet communication by voice and data in the most remote areas of the state.

A Unified Command Vehicle can provide a central location for those in charge of different aspects of a response to meet and send out coordinated response directions to their personnel. While the large Unified Command Vehicle has to be stationary to set up communications, the team also has a smaller vehicle that can provide mobile communication, Internet and crossband radio telecommunication.

A decontamination truck and transport truck were the last two of eight vehicles the CST brought on their tour through town last week. The team coordinates regularly with emergency first responders as part of its training and to ensure that, when called upon, the team is fully integrated into the National Incident Management System. Members of the CST are also available to consult with communities and businesses about their emergency preparedness planning, according to the Nevada National Guard's website.

Financing for the team comes from the federal government — through the US National Guard and then to the CST.

First responders in Winnemucca said they were impressed and glad to know they could call on assistance from the CST. "The team's capabilities are amazing," said WPD Lieutenant Pam Coats. HGH EMS Captain Fergus Laughridge said he appreciated the opportunity to become more familiar with the CST members. "It's nice to be on a first-name basis with the personnel and have their contact information."