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Home : News
NEWS | March 16, 2022

Wisconsin National Guard CST trains with first responders

By Staff Sgt. Katie Theusch, Wisconsin National Guard

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin National Guard’s 54th Civil Support Team (CST) completed a collective lanes training exercise last week in Madison and DeForest organized by evaluators from U.S. Army North.

The Madison-based CST is the state’s full-time response team for emergencies or terrorist events that involve weapons of mass destruction, toxic industrial chemicals or natural disasters. The unit can rapidly deploy, help first-responders determine the nature of an attack or hazardous materials scenario, and provide medical, communications, technical support and advice.

The 22 Soldiers and Airmen of the 54th CST regularly prepare and train alongside fire departments and law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin to be ready to serve as the state’s first military responder. 

In the training scenario March 8, the Madison Fire Department called in the CST after a security guard observed a potential clandestine lab in an abandoned building. The CST’s strike team of 12 people and four vehicles responded.

“As a survey team member, we go down when we get a call for assistance from a fire department or something like that and we actually survey the building and go down range for whatever the [incident commander’s] objectives are,” said Sgt. Jaclyn Sommers.

After receiving a brief from the incident commander with the Madison Fire Department, Sommers and another team member put on protective gear, entered the lab, tested substances and documented everything while relaying information back to the rest of the team.

This was Sommers’ first collective lanes training event with the CST, which she joined in October.

“I haven’t been on a real-world mission or anything yet,” Sommers said. “Being so new on the team, getting to have lots of experience working with the team members and having their experience showing me what I’m going to be doing if we were ever utilized in a real-world scenario is super valuable.”

Training exercises also help to foster relationships between the CST and first responders.

“We have to have a good working relationship with our partners – local, state and federal – because they’re really who make us a valid unit,” said Capt. Peter Vakos, the operations officer with the CST. “That’s our mission, so if we’re not in contact with our partners, we’re not doing our job.”

In addition to training exercises and real-world emergency response operations, the CST supports planned events.

“It’s a great job,” Vakos said. “It’s definitely one of the things I love about being on the CST and being in the National Guard in general, being able to get out and help your fellow state partners.”