PINELLAS PARK, Fla. – National Guard civil support teams from six states are training with local, state and federal agencies this week in Operation Night Hammer.
The three-day exercise is conducted in the air and on land and the sea May 22-24 with National Guard CSTs from Florida, New York, Illinois, South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina.
“This is a massive exercise with multiple WMD-CSTs training with the capabilities that we have,” said South Carolina Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. DeVon McFarland, 43rd WMD-CST emergency manager. “I am truly humbled and honored to be here because this is actually history. The 48th CST set up this entire exercise, and it’s the first time an exercise to this magnitude has been coordinated by a CST. It has been wonderful working with the Florida National Guard.”
WMD-CSTs include medical, survey and decontamination sections, an analytical laboratory system, and operational support. Florida’s 48th and other WMD-CST teams are using these capabilities in the exercise to solve scenarios tailored to potential real-world situations.
Florida Army National Guard Lt. Col. Mark Bianchi, 48th WMD-CST commander, said the exercise his team put together enables members “to train with our partners across federal, state and local law enforcement” and other Guard teams.
CSTs all over the country support civil authorities during potential domestic chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRNE) incidents.
”We’re operational 24/7-365 days a year,” said Bianchi. “Our guys have real-world missions where they’re providing crisis management capabilities by monitoring and detecting for CBRNE threats at special events like the Super Bowl and NASCAR events. We work regionally and nationwide. The team came together really well to put together an exercise of such a large magnitude, and I think that it will set the standard for years to come.
“We’ve got people coming from as far as New England to watch this exercise so they can put one on in the future,” he said. “That’s a credit to the team that I have. The reason they’re so good is because they’re operational.”