LOUISVILLE, Ky. – If there ever were an incident at the Churchill Downs Racetrack requiring the specially trained chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) unit of the National Guard, thanks to training done this week, they'd be ready.
Around 20 Soldiers and Airmen from the 75th Troop Command's 41st Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, along with service members from seven other National Guard CSTs, the Louisville Metro Police Department and the FBI conducted the exercise March 14 to prepare for Kentucky Derby festivities in May.
"This is a preparatory ﬁeld training exercise to get our team, the support personnel from other CSTs, LMPD and the FBI ready for the derby festival," said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Scott Terrill, 41st CST site safety oﬃcer and exercise coordinator.
The relationships with partners are essential for smooth operations during high-proﬁle events.
"The collaboration that we get from the National Guard is essential for the public's safety here at Churchill Downs," said Dustin Clem, a seven-year veteran of the LMPD's hazards incident response team. "We wouldn't be able to really eﬀectively do some of the WMD mission without the CST. They're an integral part of our operations and they complement our team very well."
Terrill said this was the fourth consecutive year the exercise was held, though this year's version was the largest and most complex.
"This is the ﬁrst year that we've brought in our support personnel for the field training exercise," said Terrill. "All the people who are on ground with us today from the out-of-state CSTs will be the same people working with us in May for the actual Derby festival."
One of the goals of the exercise is to get everyone familiar with each other before more than 100,000 people descend for the Derby Festival.
"The last thing you want to do is show up to a scene like this and not know those state, local and federal agency leads," said Terrill. "You don't want the confusion of not knowing who to talk to, where they'll be located, or what type of capabilities the CST can and can't provide to them."
Exercise scenarios included setting up a decontamination station near one of the VIP gates for high-proﬁle dignitaries.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Shackelford, communications team chief and the VIP DECON noncommissioned oﬃcer in charge for the exercise, said it was valuable to get together in a low-pressure environment before the derby.
"The main beneﬁt is that we work with them in a real-world setting," said Shackelford. "The fact that we're training with them right now and setting up these SOPs will be a big help when it comes time that we are needed."
The 100 or so participants learned some valuable lessons from each other.
"It was a great day of training," said Army Lt. Col. Joe Fontanez, commander of the 41st CST. "This exercise enhanced the relationships between our CST personnel, out-of-state CST Soldiers and Airmen, and our local and federal agencies. The lessons we learned today will enhance our preparedness for the Kentucky Derby Festival and ensure public safety at Churchill Downs."
Other National Guard units involved in the exercise included the 12th CST from the New Hampshire National Guard; Oklahoma's 63rd CST; the Idaho Guard's 101st CST; Nevada's 92nd CST; the 42nd CST from North Carolina; the North Dakota National Guard's 81st CST, North Dakota National Guard, and Wisconsin's 54th CST.