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Ahoy! N.Y. Guard CST trains to deploy by landing craft

By Eric Durr and Spc. Andrew Valenza | New York National Guard | Sept. 11, 2018

WATERFORD, N.Y.—The New York National Guard's 2nd Civil Support Team tested their ability to deploy a biological, chemical and radiological survey team 12 miles by boat to a shoreline during a joint exercise with the New York Naval Militia on Sept. 8.

The exercise required the 2nd Civil Support Team, known as a CST, to load an all-terrain vehicle full of supplies on board the Naval Militia's new landing craft – LC-350 - in Rensselaer, New York, and move north up the Hudson River to Peebles Island State Park in Waterford.

Once at the park, the Civil Support Team Soldiers and Airmen drove the ATV on shore, set up an operating station and then conducted a survey sweep. When complete they packed up, loaded back on board the landing craft and returned south down the Hudson River.

The ability to deploy by boat allows the CST to reach areas that could not be reached by road due to flooding or other conditions, explained Maj. Lance Woodard, the 2nd CST deputy commander.

Working together we begin to understand each other's capabilities," Woodard said. "And we're continuously building that relationship."

"I think today went very well," Woodard said. "Not only for the Naval Militia but for us. This is the first time we'd been able to mobilize a strike team and vehicle on LC-350."

The 2nd CST, one of two New York weapons of mass destruction civil support teams, is based at Stratton Air National Guard Base near Schenectady, New York.

The CST is trained to identify chemical, radiological, biological and nuclear agents and provide advice on dealing with them to local responders. The 2nd CST covers upstate New York while the 24th CST based at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn focuses on New York City.

In the upstate New York region the 2nd CST is responsible for there are a lot of railroads and other key infrastructure that cannot easily be reached by road but can be reached by water, explained Capt. Justin Kupinski, the 2nd CST operations officer.

If there was an incident there it is possible the only way to get a team there would be to insert via water,"Kupinski said. "Being able to put a strike team on a landing craft and deliver them to these remote place means we can get there faster and with all of our equipment."

The drill with the Naval Militia validated the concept, Kupinski added. The ATV had to drive through eight inches of water but it worked, he said.

The New York Naval Militia is made up of members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard reserve who volunteer to respond to state emergencies and events on state active duty. They put the skills they learn in federal service to work for the state of New York. 

The Naval Militia operates a fleet of 10 patrol boats which operate in New York Harbor, the Hudson River and other state waters. 

The newest boat in the fleet is LC-350: LC for "landing craft:" and 350 for its length, 35 feet. The boat allows the Naval Militia to land supplies and personnel along the Hudson River, and on Long Island. The boat can also be trailered to other locations if necessary.

While the Naval Militia had practiced loading and unloading the CST's ATV before, this was the first time the crew was landing a vehicle on an unknown beach, said Naval Militia Commander Don McKnight, who heads the Naval Militia's Military Emergency Boat Service.

"It was kind of a mucky beach and it was a shallow approach and we had some water intake issues," McKnight said. "But that is what you train for."

The mission to Peebles Island State Park was part of an annual Naval Militia exercise known as Rapid Gunwale.

While LC-350 was negotiating the Hudson River, including passing through a lock, another Naval Militia patrol boat and a Naval Militia command post was exercising with Saratoga and Fulton County Sheriff Department Boats and a New York State Police dive team on Great Sacandaga Lake.

The 29-mile-long lake is located north of the Mohawk River. The exercise scenario was built around the hunt for a bomb attached to a bridge.