34th CST assessed as fully trained by external reviewers

Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team conduct a Training Proficiency Evaluation Dec. 5, 2013, near Richmond, Va. The team will be evaluated on their proficiency level in 12 different collective tasks. The CST conducts an external evaluation every 18 months to validate they are able to effectively conduct their mission of providing support to first responders in potential biological, chemical, nuclear, radiological and explosive incidents. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers and Airmen of the Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team conduct a Training Proficiency Evaluation Dec. 5, 2013, near Richmond, Va. The team will be evaluated on their proficiency level in 12 different collective tasks. The CST conducts an external evaluation every 18 months to validate they are able to effectively conduct their mission of providing support to first responders in potential biological, chemical, nuclear, radiological and explosive incidents. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. – The Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team earned a “T” for trained rating on 12 collective tasks following a Training Proficiency Evaluation proctored by U.S. Army North’s Civil Support Readiness Group-East, earning the overall assessment rating of “Fully Mission Capable.” The two-day evaluation took place Dec. 3 and 5, 2013, at two Richmond-area locations. The evaluation validates the unit as capable of effectively conducting its mission of providing support to first responders in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incident.

“The TPE is supposed to evaluate all of our collective tasks to tell our higher [headquarters] that we’re proficient and able to do our defense support to civil authorities mission,” said Maj. Edward Cox, commander of the 34th CST.

TPEs happen approximately every 18 months for each of the nation’s 57 CSTs and evaluates the teams on 12 collective tasks including deploying the team, establishing operations, communications and medical support, conducting survey activities and analytical functions as well as redeploying the team.

“As I expected, they did extremely well, and they were evaluated as fully mission capable in all 12 collective tasks,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. “The evaluators were extremely impressed with our Soldiers and Airmen, and they saw some best practices they hope other CSTs will adopt. These evaluations are important because the 34th CST is at the first line of response, and we want to make sure they are as well trained and prepared as possible. It fits into the overall scheme of having a trained, ready and relevant force.”

The team consists of 22 full-time Army and Air National Guard personnel, split between six sections: command, operations, communications, administration/logistics, medical/analytical and survey. The team is equipped with a variety of the latest military and commercial CBRN equipment and maintains on-call team members prepared to deploy an advance team within 90 minutes of notification, with the main body following within three hours. CST members can identify chemical, biological and radiological substances, assess current and projected consequences of those substances, advise an incident commander on response measures and assist with requests for additional state support.

This year’s evaluation scenarios varied across the two days of the event and required CST Soldiers and Airmen to react differently based on the scenario. Day one of the event took place at a county composting facility in Henrico, Va., and involved notional attempts to poison a county water supply and required the team to react to both a radiological and a chemical dispersion device, which included identifying the materials and assessing the situation. On the second evaluation day, CST members worked at the Civil Air Patrol facility at the Chesterfield County Airport and responded to investigate notional reports that an aircraft had been used to spray some variety of CBRN material over the local populace, according to Cox.

“The Soldiers have trained real hard and this is like our culminating event for the year,” Cox said.

Maintaining proficiency is an ongoing task for the team members, who complete between 500 and 900 hours of specialized training during their first year assigned to the team, with additional advanced training coming late with multiple agencies including the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the National Fire Academy, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Preparing for this is a continuing process,” said Cox. “Every month we have a field training event and we almost always focus on our collective training so that we can focus on all the events that go into this [evaluation].”

The 34th CST’s primary response area includes a 300-mile radius from its home station at Fort Pickett and stretches as far north as Pennsylvania and as far south as South Carolina.

“It’s important that the commonwealth has something like this so that we can assist in any way possible,” said Sgt. Austin Beaty, survey team member and CBRN noncommissioned officer.

More from this event:

Photos: 34th Civil Support Team conducts external evaluation

Photos: 34th Civil Support Team conducts external evaluation at Chesterfield Airport