34th CST demonstrates capabilities during open house

The 34th Civil Support Team demonstrated a site survey April 11, 2014, during their open house presentation to the Brig. Gen. Blake C. Ortner, land component commander, and staff members of the Joint Forces Headquarters.  The unit can identify chemical, biological, and radiological substances, assess current and projected consequences, advise an incident commander on response measures and assist with requests for additional state support. The 34th CST is federally resourced, trained and sustained and operates under the control of state leadership. The Adjutant General of Virginia may employ the 34th CST to support the state response under the direction of the governor or to support another state’s response under a supported governor. (Photo by Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The 34th Civil Support Team demonstrated a site survey April 11, 2014, during their open house presentation to the Brig. Gen. Blake C. Ortner, land component commander, and staff members of the Joint Forces Headquarters. The unit can identify chemical, biological, and radiological substances, assess current and projected consequences, advise an incident commander on response measures and assist with requests for additional state support. The 34th CST is federally resourced, trained and sustained and operates under the control of state leadership. The Adjutant General of Virginia may employ the 34th CST to support the state response under the direction of the governor or to support another state’s response under a supported governor. (Photo by Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – The Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team hosted an open house April 12 at Fort Pickett.

“We wanted to have an open house to provide our leadership a better understanding of our capabilities and what it takes to be a CST member,” said Capt. Thomas M. Valentine, the survey team leader of the 34th CST.

Civil Support Teams are designed to increase local and regional response capabilities in incidents that have known or suspected to have known hazardous materials or weapons of mass destruction.  Valentine explained, “We provide a unique niche that fills the hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction gap that out civilian counterparts are unable to fill on their own.”

Valentine and Staff Sgt. Nathan D. Pettway demonstrated how a typical two-person survey team would conduct a site reconnaissance and assessment.  During the demonstration they took several chemical samples and prepared the samples for transport.  Valentine and Pettway were both wearing their Level A Hazardous Materials Ensembles, which included a 45-pound Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, or SCBA, and a completely encapsulating air-tight plastic suit.  Following the site assessment, both Soldiers demonstrated how to exit the suit by going through a technical decontamination station where they systematically washed and removed parts of their suits so that there was no exposure to any potential contaminants.

Following the decontamination demonstration, visitors were escorted through the unit’s motor pool and were shown important pieces of equipment and provided opportunities to ask questions.

The CST is comprised of 22 full-time, active-duty Air and Army National Guard personnel that complete over 850 hours of technical training by agencies including the National Fire Academy, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Staff Sgt. Nathan D. Pettway explains to Brig. Gen. Blake C. Ortner how the Civil Support Team members use their specialized detection equipment. (Photo by Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Staff Sgt. Nathan D. Pettway explains to Brig. Gen. Blake C. Ortner how the Civil Support Team members use their specialized detection equipment. (Photo by Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Maj. Edward “Casey” Cox, 34th CST commander, briefed at the beginning of the open house that the team members are divided into six smaller teams encompassing: command, operations, survey, logistics, communications, and medical.  Typically, the team will bring equipment tailored to the specific incident, but has the ability to bring a command vehicle, operations trailer, a state-of-the-art communications platform called the Unified Command Suite– which can provide a broad-spectrum of capabilities.  In addition, the team can also bring a full analytical laboratory system which contains several pieces of highly technical analytical instruments, tools, and equipment that can support the presumptive identification of hazards.  Each of these systems and vehicles were on display during the Open house.

CSTs are able to deploy rapidly in order to assess, assist, and advise local first-responders in determining the nature of any chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive threat, provide technical subject matter expertise, and provide a presumptive identification of the hazard.  The CST is federally resourced, trained, and sustained and operates under the controlled of state leadership.  CSTs also provide on-scene military liaison services for follow-on state and federal military response assets.

Photos: 34th CST demonstrates capabilities during open house