BARRIGADA, Guam – The thick air inside a musty shipping container feels well over 100 degrees in the midday Guam heat. Still, three members of the Guam National Guard's 94th Civil Support Team are in full HAZMAT suits, working away.
This is a training exercise to hone the skills of the CST in identifying hazardous materials under adverse conditions. In this simulation, the Soldiers and Airmen are discovering a "clandestine laboratory" with "biological cultures."
Entering the room, shrill alarms of their sensing equipment signal the presence of dangerous substances, and they radio the news to the command post.
"Instead of giving in to constraints we face with COVID-19, we're taking the opportunity to train even more realistically," said Maj. Victor Balajadia, CST commander. "We never know what we might face in this uncertain future, so we have to find ways to maintain our state of readiness. We just have to be creative."
Each state National Guard includes a civil support team like Guam's.
"CSTs are an asset to civil authorities. We're a great force multiplier for any agency, from the Guam Guard to the Guam Fire Department, Guam Police Department, or any other entities out there that need our assistance," said Sgt. 1st Class Ivan Castro, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 94th CST's reconnaissance team.
Asked how COVID-19 has hampered training, Castro replied: "I'm pretty sure COVID has given everybody issues, but we try to go beyond that. We still stay within (public health) guidelines, and make things happen."