Joint Training Exercise Bolsters Working Relationships

Joint Training Exercise Bolsters Working Relationships

Members of the 91st Civil Support Team, Arizona National Guard, search an abandoned vehicle for chemical threats during a joint training exercise in Show Low, Ariz., Aug. 5. The joint exercise was conducted with first responders to allow local and federal agencies to train together in the detection and mitigation of threats to the community. (US Army Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Monette Wesolek, Arizona National Guard Public Affairs Office)

SHOWLOW, Ariz. – As the sun rises over the mountains, the blast of flash bang grenades are heard followed by simulated small arms fire. The yells of “Go, Go, Go” ring out over the sound of sirens. Law enforcement officers, from the Show Low - Pine top area, breach the front doors of a building, on the North Pioneer College campus and begin to systematically search each room for an active shooter and any victims inside.


Once the building has been cleared, the officers locate an abandoned car in a nearby field, but are unable to search it due to the simulated inability to breathe.  After further investigation a call is made requesting the assistance and expertise of the Arizona National Guard’s 91st Civil Support Team (CST).


This scenario was part of a two-day training exercise conducted here Aug. 5 and 6, linking local and federal law enforcement with local community government agencies and the 91st Civil Support Team, in training to build partnership and readiness in the event of an incident threatening the community.


“We get on scene and make contact with the incident commander to get his objectives,” said Army First Sgt. Scot Havir, 91st CST First Sgt. “Then we activate the teams needed to fulfill that objective.”


The Soldiers and Airmen of the 91st CST are a force multiplier for local partners, often brought in to handle chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive threats.  This 22-man team has the capability to respond to a scene, gather information and samples, return to the command post, analyze questionable substances, and provide recommendations to the requesting agency.


During this training scenario, vehicles arrive on scene within minutes. Soldiers and Airmen set up communications, detection and analysis equipment and science capabilities, to allow them to safely and accurately detect and mitigate a suspicious substance that may be in the abandoned vehicle.  


A two-man team, dressed in biohazard suits, begin making their way to the abandoned vehicle, where they take samples of suspicious substances, capturing photographic evidence as the go.  As the heat spikes past 90 degrees the temperature in the orange biohazard suits reaches over 100, but the two members of the CST systematically continue their analysis of the area before returning with samples to be analyzed by the science officer.


Once these members have gone through the decontamination lane, the samples are analyzed. A second team is sent to conduct mitigation of the threat. At the end of the day the threat is identified and neutralized, and the CST heads home for much deserved rest before beginning day two of their scenario-based training.


“The biohazard suits get hot. Gloves and masks can at times make the mission a little tougher,” said Army Sgt. Daniel Coe, Survey team member, 91st CST. “It’s always a good feeling at the end of the day, knowing that you have successfully accomplished the mission.”


This training exercise, being conducted by local agencies and an Army North training team, will help to prepare the 91st CST for future real-world situations, but it will also help to increase their efficiency and abilities when they face their next certification in the next few months.


“Our specific function is to run training lanes for them, and to conduct their Technical Proficiency Evaluations to recertify them every 18 months,” said Conrad Stiegel, Bravo team leader Army North. “Our job is to make sure they are successful and certified so that they can continue to support the citizens of the State of Arizona.”


Each member of the 91st CST is a highly skilled, highly trained expert, spending hours training to successfully do his or her job. Almost the entire first year on this specialized team is spent in schools, not only to learn how to detect and mitigate threats, but more importantly how to conduct their mission under the pressures of real life missions and scenarios.