34th CST trains alongside first responders in Virginia Beach

Soldiers and Airmen from the Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team train for an emergency response scenario alongside Hampton Roads-area firefighters June 5, 2013, at the Virginia Beach Fire & EMS Training Center. Firefighters from Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach learned first-hand the capabilities of the 34th CST during three days of side-by-side training. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers and Airmen from the Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team train for an emergency response scenario alongside Hampton Roads-area firefighters June 5, 2013, at the Virginia Beach Fire & EMS Training Center. Firefighters from Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach learned first-hand the capabilities of the 34th CST during three days of side-by-side training. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Soldiers and Airmen from the Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team joined hazardous materials teams from fire departments in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Portsmouth for a three-day exercise June 3-5 at the Virginia Beach Fire & EMS Training Center.

“This is the most realistic training that we’ll get because we’re going to be integrating with first responders (in a real-world scenario),” said Maj. Casey Cox, commander of the 34th CST. “The majority of the time we’re going to show up and first responders will be on the scene and we will fall in and be a resource to the incident commander, generally a fire captain.”

The 34th CST, comprised of 22 full-time Army and Air National Guard personnel, is one of 57 such units nationwide with the mission to support civil authorities at a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive incident site with identification and assessment of hazards, advise civil authorities, and facilitate the arrival of follow-on military forces during emergencies and incidents of weapons of mass destruction terrorism.

For the Soldiers and Airmen of the CST, exercises such as this with local first responders are important because of the differences between the military and fire departments in everything from communication devices to language.

The three-day exercise was an opportunity to integrate the 34th CST with the local hazmat teams and see what the CST brings to the table. In addition it allowed them to learn what works well, what doesn’t work well, and how to build off each others’ strengths and weaknesses, according to Ray Haring, a hazardous materials manager with VDEM. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The three-day exercise was an opportunity to integrate the 34th CST with the local hazmat teams and see what the CST brings to the table. In addition it allowed them to learn what works well, what doesn’t work well, and how to build off each others’ strengths and weaknesses, according to Ray Haring, a hazardous materials manager with VDEM. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“We learn there are interoperability issues we need to be aware of, whether it’s communications or language,” Casey said. “So this is important to learn that interoperability with our counterparts.”

Capt. David Compton, hazmat captain for the Virginia Beach Fire Department, had never worked with the 34th CST before but he saw the exercise as a perfect example of the resources it can provide.

“We deal with a lot with tourism and special event s in Virginia Beach,” Compton explained. “This scenario is a mishap that occurred at a special event and we’ve had to use an in-depth regional response. So we’ve tapped into hazmat teams from Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake to assist us and, because some of these scenarios get so large, we tapped into the CST as well.”

The hazmat teams from Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach make up the Tidewater Region Hazmat Team, under the coordination of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. For them the exercise was an opportunity to integrate the CST with the local hazmat teams and see what the CST brings to the table. In addition it allowed them to learn what works well, what doesn’t work well, and how to build off each others’ strengths and weaknesses, according to Ray Haring, a hazardous materials manager with VDEM.

“We’ve had ‘show and tell’-type training with the CST before but never anything this level of integration,” Haring said. “By coming together and doing this in an exercise, if there were an actual event, we would all be much better prepared to integrate and be ready to go to work a lot faster.”

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34th CST trains for emergency scenario alongside Hampton Roads-area firefighters
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