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NEWS | Oct. 25, 2019

Pa. Guard evaluated on weapons of mass destruction response

By Lt. Col. Angela King-Sweigart Joint Force Headquarters, Pennsylvania National Guard

SCRANTON, Pa. – The Pennsylvania National Guard 3rd Weapons of Mass Destruction civil support team was evaluated for its ability to identify nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological contaminants.

The exercise this week involved two scenarios. At Clark Summit State Hospital, there was a simulated biological threat involving cholera. At Steam Town National Historic Park, a suspicious box truck was making people ill and was found to contain radiological contaminants. The 18 Soldiers and four Airmen were expected to respond quickly, identify the causes and prevent the contaminants from spreading.

"We have a bunch of different sections. You have your command section, you have your operations section, logistics, decon, medical, analytical and our survey section," said Maj. Frank Brown, commander of the unit.

The team's response was evaluated by Jay B. Norris of Army North command, which monitors 54 of the 57 National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction civil support teams nationwide.

"Today's training is going well," he said.

The team is a unique unit in the Pennsylvania National Guard. All members are highly trained, full-time, on-call with an advance team that can respond in 90 minutes, according to Army Brig. Gen. David Wood, director of the Pennsylvania National Guard's joint staff.

"The CST team is a critical part of our domestic response," Wood said. "They continue to be on call. We've received calls that are scheduled and unscheduled. They can be utilized by the local community as well as the state and national level."

"This is the greatest job I've ever had and I'll probably stay with it until I retire," said Air Force Maj. Jacob Derivan, the 3rd Weapons of Mass Destruction deputy commander and science officer.

Those assisting with the exercise included the Environmental Protection Agency, County of Lackawanna, U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Army North and the 5th Weapons of Mass Destruction civil support team out of Illinois.