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NEWS | April 12, 2024

Pennsylvania Guard WMD Civil Support Team Completes Exercise

By Wayne Hall, Joint Force Headquarters - Pennsylvania National Guard

BLOOMSBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania National Guard’s 3rd Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team conducted a training exercise April 11 to validate its proficiency. 

In the exercise scenario, potentially contaminated items were discovered on the bleachers and in the press box before a collegiate track meet at Bloomsburg University’s Rober B. Redman Stadium.

“Unfortunately, in the world we live in, bad people want to try to do bad things,“ said Air Force Lt. Col. Jake Derivan, commander, 3rd WMD-CST. “We’re here to try to keep that from happening, or at least mitigate the problem if it occurs. So, if you have a lot of people together, if there’s a sporting event, a lot of times we’re there. We’re here for the commonwealth.”

This specialized 22-member unit responds to incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear high-yield explosives by identifying substances, toxic industrial chemicals and materials.

To maintain its proficiency, the team must undergo an external evaluation every 18 months by a U.S. Army North team. The evaluation serves as the team’s Department of Defense accreditation.

Derivan said the evaluation is conducted as realistically as possible. Just as in a real situation, the team works through its checklist as it evaluates the scene and neutralizes any potential hazards.

“We go in blind to the actual situation,” said Sgt. 1st Class William Amerman, a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist who has been with the 3rd WMD-CST for about seven years.

When the team arrives, it conducts reconnaissance, establishes its operational footprint and coordinates with the incident commander, often a local fire chief or senior law enforcement officer.

“We do not take over the situation; we support,” said Derivan, who has been part of the team for over 15 years and its commander for nearly two years.

The team responds methodically, working for several hours in an encapsulated suite to keep it safe from contaminants.

“It can be draining mentally and physically,” Amerman said. “But you just got to have the perseverance to push through it and get the mission done.”



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