Virginia National Guard soldiers, airmen conduct support training
By THE PROGRESS-INDEX Published: September 27, 2019
RICHMOND, Va. (Tribune News Service) — Virginia National Guard soldiers and airmen assigned to the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team conducted hazardous materials identification and response training Sept. 24, 2019 at Defense Supply Center in Richmond, and Sept. 26 in Disputanta. The 34th CST supports first responders in potential hazardous materials incidents involving possible chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats. The 34th CST can identify unknown substances, assess current and projected consequences, advise an incident commander on response measures and assist with requests for additional state support. The training is in preparation for the 34th CST's external evaluation in November.
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.
Approximately every 18 months, the 34th CST conducts an external evaluation, and they will be evaluated on 12 different collective tasks including deploying the team, establishing communications and medical support, conducting technical decontamination, CBRN assessments and analytical functions as well as conducting interagency coordination. The evaluation team will brief the Adjutant General and submit the results to NORTHCOM Headquarters as well as National Guard Bureau.
The 34th CST is one of 57 such units in the country and is equipped with a wide range of the latest military and commercial equipment CBRN equipment. It is made up of 22 full-time Army and Air National Guard personnel who bring a wide range of military skills as well as career experience from the civilian sector. The unit is divided into six sections: command, operations, communications, administration/logistics, medical/analytical and survey.
Each team member completes between 500 and 900 hours of specialized training during their first year of assignment and continues advanced training throughout their tenure 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.
The team'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. They maintain personnel on standby at all times, can deploy an advance team within 90 minutes of notification and the main body deploys within three hours.
The unit's assigned transportation includes a command vehicle, operations trailer, a communications vehicle called the unified command suite which provides a broad spectrum of secure communications capabilities, an analytical laboratory system vehicle containing a full suite of analysis equipment to support the complete characterization of an unknown hazard and several general purpose vehicles. The CST normally deploys using its assigned vehicles, but it can be airlifted as required.