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34th CST trains with federal, state, local first responders

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard | Oct. 9, 2020

GLEN ALLEN, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team partnered with federal, state and local first responders to conduct a training exercise Sept. 18.

The exercise capped a week of interagency training designed to grow partnerships between the agencies and help them work together in real-world scenarios.

Together with representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Virginia State Police, Virginia Beach Police Department and Richmond Police Department, 16 members of the CST provided their unique response capability to tackle training scenarios simulating chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive threats.

The training was beneficial to everyone, said Capt. Jason Dodge, the 34th CST’s deputy commander.

“Interagency training helps first responders in the community identify any capability or tactics, techniques and procedures gaps that may exist,” said Dodge. “Also, witnessing how a different agency approaches a scenario helps all CST members, from leadership and how their questions are informed to the boots-on-the-ground Soldiers interpreting and communicating their downrange findings.”

Responding to three mock scenarios at a youth sports complex, the group broke up into three teams comprised of members from each agency. This ensured they worked together and learned the capabilities each entity can provide in a response scenario.

“Breaking the class up into small groups representing all agencies was essential to ensure everyone had a chance to see how each organization operated. Not only that, it was a great opportunity for those members to form personal relationships with each other,” said Dodge. “In the first responder community, we say it’s important to get to know each other before we have to work together after a disaster occurs.”

The mock scenarios the teams had to negotiate included complex explosives or hazardous materials threats, in some cases requiring several response capabilities to be employed. Mock victims helped make the scenarios as realistic as possible.

“One training scenario involved a CST member exhibiting unique medical symptoms secured to a dangerous device,” said Dodge. “Responding CST members drew on their background to ensure responding law enforcement personnel donned the appropriate level of PPE (personal protective equipment). In return, the LE (law enforcement) members rescued the CST member from the dangerous device.“

In the days leading up to the culminating field exercise, the different agencies conducted classroom training at the Sgt. Bob Slaughter Headquarters at Defense Supply Center in Richmond, familiarizing each other with each agency’s capabilities and specialties.

“The teamwork between the agencies was cordial and energizing. We spent most of the week on our feet demonstrating equipment, and the training scenarios ensured everyone had a chance to contribute their specialty,” said Dodge.

The training capped off a busy summer of exercises for the CST, including field training events in Maryland, Henrico County, Virginia, and Virginia Beach.