Arizona’s WMD team trains for nationwide response

Arizona’s WMD team trains for nationwide response

Members of the Arizona National Guard’s 91st Civil Support Team and the Air Force Reserve’s 729th Airlift Squadron construct loading ramps on the cargo bay door of a C-17A Globemaster III during a static load training exercise at Williams Gateway Airport in Mesa, Ariz. The two units worked together to enhance the rapid deployment capability of the Arizona’s weapons of mass destruction response force June 24. (National Guard photo by Spc. Wes Parrell)

MESA, Ariz. – The Arizona National Guard’s weapons of mass destruction response force practiced loading vehicles and equipment on a C-17A Globemaster III at Williams Gateway Airport here to enhance rapid response capability June 24.

The mission of the 91st Civil Support Team is to support civil authorities at domestic chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological, or explosive incident sites with identification and assessment of hazards, advice, and the coordination of military assets during emergencies and disasters anywhere within the United States. They fulfill a rotating on-call requirement with CST units across the country and must be ready to mobilize within minutes of receiving a request for support.

“Our unit covers a broad spectrum of requests for support,” said Air Force Maj. Michael Spencer, operations officer for the 91st. “We have conducted stand-by support missions for local events such as the Super Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Tempe Block Party and NASCAR. We have also responded to national incidents such as Hurricane Katrina and conducted support missions for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The requirement for us to effectively work with representatives from different agencies is very important.”

To enhance the joint and total-force nature of the CST’s training, members of the Air Force Reserve’s 729th Airlift Squadron flew in a C-17A - a cargo aircraft that would support a CST deployment in a real-world scenario – from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California. Guard and Reserve Airmen and Soldiers worked together to static load three trucks and a trailer.

“The exposure to joint-service training such as this is an invaluable experience for our newer load masters,” said Senior Master Sgt. Frank Gamache, load master for the 729th. “I have served over 26 years in the Air Force Reserve, with the 729th, and I learn something every time we train. To provide our younger load masters with a unique opportunity like this is great and something they can carry with them as their careers develop.”

With 22 full-time members, the 91st trains over 2,200 hours a year and continuously develops relations with first responders throughout Arizona.

Arizona is scheduled to host the National Football League’s Pro Bowl and Super Bowl in 2015. According to Tech. Sgt. Istvan Kertesz, the tempo of support missions for those events is speeding up. “We are coming into the time of year that our schedule gets busy. As the sports season begins, the demands for our unit increase.”