KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. - On Wednesday, August 23, members of the Camp Joseph T. Robinson based 61st Civil Support Team put their skills to the test at the Defense Nuclear Weapons School in New Mexico.
Designed to support civil authorities at domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive incident sites, the quick reaction unit participated in the exercise as part of a training course to hone their skills.
1st Lt. Shawn Kreuzberger, nuclear engineer and executive officer for the accident response section of the school said "There are many variables to contend with when responding to an accident or incident where radiologic materials are involved. This course is designed to bring the [civil support teams] up to the 'technician or on-scene expert' level."
Kreuzberger added that the skills the teams learn at the school include how to utilize and employ radiation sensing devices, determine safe perimeter distances and calculate dosage rates of radioactive contamination, determine the medical effects of radiation on contaminated individuals and how to locate, identify and shield radioactive materials to contain exposure to the public.
Wednesday's exercise charged the Arkansas Soldiers and Airmen with locating and identifying an actual radioactive sample that instructors hid inside a small cargo trailer pulled behind a truck. The scenario called for the team to respond to a potential terrorist threat being smuggled in a trailer load of construction equipment. The truck and trailer had been detained by law enforcement on a tip. The team was called in to locate and identify the radioactive material, and shield it for removal to safe storage.
"This kind of course is great for our team," said Cabot resident Maj. Stan Evans, deputy commander and science officer for the 61st. "It incorporates the science of ionized radiation on the human body as well as the mathematics necessary to calculate the level of radiation emitted by an isotope and the approximate distance from the material. We also gain practical experience using the various sensors on small samples of actual radiological materials that you can't get anywhere else."
Team members practiced how to scan open areas with sensors, sample air and soil for radioactive particles and locate radiologic materials with a combination of sensor readings and mathematic calculations.
"These skills allow a [civil support team] to save lives by analyzing and calculating the effects of the radioactive source before they ever reach the 'hot zone,'" Kreuzberger said.
The 61st is comprised of full time Arkansas Army and Air National Guardsman, who remain on call for quick deployment in support of civil authorities anywhere in the state.