By Sgt. 1st Class Manuel Torres
U.S. Army North PAO
BUFFALO, Minn., (9/1/10) - Two days after a groundbreaking ceremony here, seven local residents who attended the ceremony started developing strange symptoms of fever, in addition to severe headaches, vomiting and fluid-filled blisters.
The 55th Civil Support Team, a Minnesota National Guard unit based out of Fort Snelling, Minn., deployed to an abandoned school in downtown Buffalo Aug. 24 as part of this notional scenario to help local authorities investigate.
Members of U. S. Army Northâ€™s Civil Support Training Activity â€“ Charlie Division, based out of Fort Sam Houston, Texas, deployed to the area to provide support during the pre-evaluation training event.
â€œOur responsibility is providing the overhead evaluation of their processes,â€ said Jeffery Carter, an observer controller with Army North. â€œWe help ensure that they look at every step in the setup, administration, logistics and decontamination process.â€
The 55th CSTâ€™s priority is to ensure the safety of the local community, to pinpoint areas of contamination in the building and to make recommendations to the incident commander on disposal of contaminated material.
â€œWe have to maintain our overall safety and look for the mysterious substance that caused all the symptoms,â€ said Sgt. Brent Emery, 1st Reconnaissance Team member from the 55th CST. â€œThe big picture is to find anything out of the ordinary, to locate any chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents and especially to work hand-in-hand with the local authorities and maintain constant communications and to share critical information in these types of situations.â€
The first two-man team to enter the building wore chemical protection suits with breathing apparatuses, which sustained them in the contaminated environment for up to one hour.Â During that hour, the team worked together to investigate the building for any substance and cleared almost two floors, which consisted of more than 15 rooms.
â€œThis team has done extraordinarily well,â€ said Javier Rodriguez-Ramos, an observer controller with U.S. Army North. â€œThey have to be aware of their surroundings and look for any type of dispersal-type device while constantly taking pictures and relaying any type of clue to the command center.â€
As the team searched the area, it came across an old boiler room that contained a suspicious can filled with an unknown substance, later determined to be Anthrax.
Further investigation showed that the substance could have been the cause of the symptoms that the victims experienced.
The proper techniques in acquiring the known cause is essential in any training event, and it was vital to practice relaying any type of intelligence to help the next team being able to contain the device and or chemicals.
â€œWe have had a lot of personnel change over within the last year,â€ said Sgt. Eric Laursen, survey team member, 55th CST. â€œThis helps our team get on the same page and learn the systems and processes. You can talk about the process and steps, but you really donâ€™t know the full extent until you actually do it.â€
As members of Army Northâ€™s CST observed, the team members leaped into action, room by room, protected by their chemical and radiological alarms as they sought out the dangerous substance. The 55th CST members worked together to help find the source, contain the dangerous material and to ensure the safety of the local residents.
â€œSuccessful exercises like this one strengthens the confidence that the local authorities have in the CST teams and build partnerships for future cooperation,â€ said Bill Havlic, director of Civil Support Readiness Group â€“ West for Army North. â€œTeams have to be prepared for anything on short notice.â€