RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia National Guard’s 34th Civil Support Team was evaluated by U.S. Army North as trained and mission capable Oct. 17 and 19.
The 34th CST supports civil authorities in a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive incident.
During the training proficiency evaluation, usually conducted about every 18 months, the CST was evaluated during two full-scale training exercises, responding to scenarios involving a mock chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive threat.
One of the exercises was conducted at the Petersburg National Battlefield’s Five Forks Unit visitor center, and the other at the Dinwiddie Airport. During the exercises, the CST conducted reconnaissance and sample-collection missions, analyzing substances to determine the severity of the hazard and appropriate next steps, all under the scrutiny of ARNORTH evaluators.
“We are very proud of the men and women of the 34th CST,” said Brig. Gen. Todd Hubbard, VNG director of the joint staff. “Their performance during this TPE reflects their ability to perform a very complex, technical mission with a high level of proficiency. The team demonstrated an ability to deploy at short notice in support of local, state or federal requirements within the commonwealth or anywhere in the nation.”
Lt. Col. Thomas D. Mecadon, commander of the 34th CST, said the unit trained for several months to prepare for the evaluation.
“I could not be prouder of them,” said Mecadon. “The truth is that based on our rigorous training schedule over the past six months and the dedication of the team to training, the TPE just felt like another day of training.”
Their ARNORTH-certified success was even more impressive given the relative lack of experience by many of the CST’s members.
“Over the past year, the team has gone through an immense amount of changeover, approximately 50%,” said Mecadon. “The amount of work, time and preparation they all dedicated to developing as a team is not measurable. It is a testament to their dedication to our mission.”
Mecadon singled out Virginia Air National Guard Capt. Samantha Vittorioso, the CST’s science officer, for developing realistic scenarios to prepare the team.
“The scenarios and agents may have been different and unknown, but nothing presented was new,” he said. “The team approached the evaluation days with flexibility and the knowledge required to overcome the challenges.”
Each team member completes 500 to 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 Fort Barfoot south to South Carolina and north to Pennsylvania. They maintain personnel on standby at all times and can deploy an advance team within 90 minutes and the main body within three hours.