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NEWS | May 2, 2022

Guard civil support teams conduct WMD training exercise

By Staff Sgt. Dustin Jordan, South Dakota National Guard Public Affairs

RAPID CITY, S.D. – National Guard civil support teams from seven states and local, state and federal agencies conducted a regional training exercise throughout western South Dakota April 26-27.

The “Rushmore Roundup” exercise focused on military and civilian interoperability, communications and field operations in response to a weapon of mass destruction scenario. Locations involved included Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Badlands National Park, Custer State Park and Sanford Underground Research Facility.

Capt. Michael Wollman, operations officer, 82nd Civil Support Team, South Dakota National Guard, said participants validated interagency coordination and response and reinforced tactics, techniques and procedures while building relationships with local and federal partners.

The exercise involved the SDNG’s 82nd CST and CSTs from Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota. Partner agencies included the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Weather Service, RAP 5 – Department of Energy, Pennington and Custer County Offices of Emergency Management, and the Rapid City Fire Department.

“This training is important because you just never know what is out there,” said Capt. Erica Bermensolo, medical operations officer, 101st Civil Support Team, Idaho National Guard. “We had the anthrax scares 10-plus years ago, but there are still calls to capitol buildings, municipal buildings, schools, etc., and having a team to respond to that is invaluable.”

More than 100 participants responded to separate incidents over a 48-hour period that challenged each team and responding agency to increase communication, develop interoperability and maintain operational response procedures during an incident.

“We set up some realistic scenarios in each of the geographical locations so they can do what it is they do for a living and get good training value out of it,” said Mark Beirne, exercise liaison, Emergency Response Training Institute.

Civil Support Teams support civil authorities in an incident involving a weapon of mass destruction by identifying chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents and advising how to respond.

“This event is great for the CST’s outreach program. Because they are a civil support team, they deploy in support of civil authorities like fire departments and police agencies at the behest of the governor,“ said Beirne. “This exercise allows the teams around the area to get familiar with each other.”

The exercise participants were pleased with the training locations and support.

“It’s nice to be able to be in all these beautiful areas and do great training that stresses us to see how equipped and responsive we can be,” said Bermensolo. “South Dakota did an excellent job logistically; they have taken care of everything,”