OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. –Members of the Oklahoma National Guard's 63rd Civil Support Team partnered with first responders and emergency personnel from the City of Altus for a 72-hour field exercise, May 4-6.
The multi-day scenario is part of a series of training exercises that are taking place across Oklahoma and are designed to improve the National Guard unit's ability to integrate with local emergency management personnel and first responders during natural or man-made disasters.
The 63rd CST is a special purpose unit of the Oklahoma National Guard with a mission to respond to and provide expert support to civilian first responders in the event of a chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological and high yield explosive-related emergencies.
Capt. Mitchell Bledsoe, operations officer, 63rd CST, said exercises like this are vital in building relationships when needed during real-world disasters.
"It's important to know how they operate and how we operate with this exercise. We've already found that we can both be better in certain areas so that the scene gets returned to normalcy as quickly as possible," Bledsoe said.
As with any emergency in Oklahoma, regardless of the cause, the Oklahoma National Guard supports local civilian incident commanders like the Altus Fire Department.
Altus Fire Department Lt. Chase Duncan said as important as the exercise is for first responders to learn how the 63rd CST can support their operations, it is just as important to know the Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen who make up the Civil Support Team.
"Having that personal relationship [is essential] because these guys are going to be around and even if we don't know what the scenario might be, we know the personnel and how to operate with them."
Members of the 63rd Civil Support Team, Oklahoma National Guard, partner with first responders as part of a 72-hour field exercise in Altus, Oklahoma, May 4-6, 2021.