Oct. 31, 2011

National Guard units participate in National Capital Region exercise

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

LORTON, Va.— Soldiers and Airmen from the Virginia National Guard's 34th Civil Support Team trained alongside members of the D.C. Guard's 33rd CST Oct. 19 during the 2011 Exercise Capital Shield 12 in Lorton, Va., hosted by Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.

 

Soldiers and Airmen from the Virginia National Guard's 34th Civil Support TeamĀ  work alongside members of the D.C. Guard's 33rd CST Oct. 19 during Exercise Capital Shield 12 in Lorton, Va., hosted by Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and The U.S. Army Military District of Washington. The Soldiers shared tips and tactics with one another to improve their processes in the future. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

The exercise is designed to enhance joint operations, techniques, procedures and enhance communication among the services and interagency partners. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen participated in a series of training evolutions alongside interagency partners and local first responders in realistic emergency scenarios.

“The 34th Civil Support Team’s main role is to assist the local responders, first responders and state authorities to make sure that anything that could be hazardous material is mitigated,” said Lt. Col. William Patton, 34th CST commander. “We make sure that we get proper identification of the samples so we can identify the hazard.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to work with other joint agencies to make sure we are all on the same page in case we have a terrorist attack.”

Being from the same Federal Emergency Management Agency region, the 33rd and 34th CSTs have worked with each other during several exercises and missions throughout the years. The two units have built strong relationships due to their close geographic proximity, and that relationship has helped the teams to work together during Capital Shield.

“The D.C. team has the same types of equipment that we do in operation, so we are falling in on their gear,” said 1st Sgt. Brodie Kirkland, 34th CST first sergeant. “If anything needs to be supplemented, or if say, the D.C. team is exhausted with all their resources and personnel, they can now leave the site and we can take over.”

 

Lt. Col. William Patton, commander of the 34th Civil Support Team and Maj. Tina Kopilchack, 33rd CST commander watch their Soldiers and Airmen participate in Exercise Capital Shield 12 in Lorton, Va., Oct. 19. The Soldiers and Airmen conducted decontamination operations following exposure to potentially contaminated areas during the exercise scenario. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

“If an event were to occur in D.C., our partners in Maryland and Virginia would be the first ones that we would call upon, so it’s very important for us to train together, so we have familiarity with each other,” said Maj. Tina Kopilchack, 33rd CST commander. “Even though the CSTs are designed to have all the same equipment, this training together gains a familiarity with personnel, so that we can fall in on each other and our teams get to know each other. Even though the equipment is the same, people aren’t the same, so we get to know how the other people operate.”

During the exercise, the 22 Soldiers from the 34th CST responded to a possible terrorist attack with potential chemical and biological agents from a makeshift lab. After notification by local authorities, the 34th and 33rd arrived to assess the situation and advise law enforcement and take samples at the scene of the incident. Units assigned to JFHQ-NCR and MDW participated in urban search and rescue tasks and mass casualty evacuations alongside local first responders following a simulated Chemical, Biological Radiological Nuclear High Yield Explosive event.

“The biggest benefit that I see from this is, anytime that you get a large-scale multi-agency exercise, you start really finding out where your weaknesses and strengths are,” said Kirkland. “If something like this were to happen in the real world, you would have a lot of resources on the site and you have to figure out how to control the scene, but for our little piece of the pie, now we can actually integrate with, not only another CST, but also the local first responders that we're going to be working for initially.”

“This is a mandated exercise for us once a year,” said Patton. “We get all the agencies involved and make sure that we can correspond and get together and make sure that we are all operating within the procedures of the national incident management system.”

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