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NEWS | March 31, 2021

14th CST all-hazards response team is ready and relevant

By Maj. Matthew Marks Connecticut National Guard

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. - The Connecticut National Guard's 14th Civil Support Team showcased its skills in a Training Proficiency Evaluation conducted by a U.S. Army North team March 22-26.

The USARNORTH scenario, designed to challenge the Soldiers and Airmen of the 14th CST, included injects for hot zone operations, the medical and analytical team, and the operations cell – all in an effort to keep the public safe and identify the hazard.

This event was originally scheduled for October, but it was postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team used its expertise and incorporated COVID monitoring and testing measures for team members and USARNORTH evaluators to ensure the TPE would occur..

The past three years, the 14th CST has been at the forefront of building relationships. In 2017, TSA Connecticut deployed the Collaborative Operations Between Response Agencies (COBRA) security team strategic model. In the summer of 2018, it increased the scope to include ferries crossing between the Connecticut shore and Long Island, New York. Because of the new scope, the team asked the Brig. Gen. Ralph Hedenberg, director of the joint staff, his thoughts and the reply was, "Get on the boat." Since then, the team has not stopped. During that same summer, the team supported the PGA Travelers Championship and U.S. Women's Soccer Tournament of Nations.

In 2019, there was a major change in the way the team operated. Under the direction of the new commander, Maj. Robert Burgess, the goal was to increase the team's footprint in Connecticut and New England. The 14th CST continued its support of legacy events such as the Hartford Marathon, Manchester Road Race, and Sailfest while adding new support to neighboring CSTs, other sporting events, and large gatherings in the region. The 14th CST conducted 136 missions during fiscal year 2019, the most in the nation and more than the previous three years combined.

The 14th CST did not lose momentum going into 2020. The team added the Yale Bowl and Secretary's Cup football games, U.S. Women's National Hockey, and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Monday Night Raw. But things changed in March 2020 with the emergence of the worldwide pandemic.

While most of the country was shutting down, the 14th CST went in the opposite direction. The team provided medical and analytical guidance to the state's chain of command.

In April, the Connecticut Department of Public Health Laboratory (DPH-Lab) asked the team to fill a gap in testing at long-term care facilities and nursing homes. The CST had worked with the DPH-Lab for nearly 15 years. This robust relationship enabled the development, planning and approval of one of the first testing capabilities in the nation in less than nine days. The team used the mobile lab to provide field testing at facilities around the state. With help from the 24th CST (New York), the team tested more than 2,000 samples in two months.

During September 2020, the team underwent an NGB-J39 Standardization, Evaluation and Assistance Team evaluation. Because of the pandemic, the usual intensive, three-day evaluation was conducted remotely over 35 days. The team scored 96% overall, meeting the national average for compliance.

Fast forward to March 22-26 as the 14th CST closed out its final day of TPE. With nearly 55% personnel turnover since the last TPE in 2019, the team walked away without a single No-Go on the entire evaluation.

The team conducted a training exercise nearly every week for the past two months to hone its skills, in addition to a real-world response at a Waterbury recycling center a few weeks ago. With only a couple of days to take a breath, the team was back at it supporting TSA and other COBRA partners.