Specialized National Guard unit in national-level exercise | Community Spirit
Soldiers and Airmen from Smyrna’s 45th Civil Support Team are always ready to respond at a moment’s notice. Specifically trained to support and assist local and state agencies during chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear incidents, their skills were on full display July 26- 29 during a massive training exercise in Indiana.
The 22-member unit helped kick off U.S. Northern Command’s Vibrant Response 13, a National Level Exercise held at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center. Additionally there 10 other training areas and airfields in Indiana and northern Kentucky. Involving more than 9,000 service members and civilians from various agencies from July 25 to Aug. 13, it is one of the largest incident-response events in the nation.
“For this exercise there was a simulated detonation of a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon in a nearby city,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Brown, commander of the 45th CST. “Our first mission was to assist with clearing routes, containment, monitoring radiation and helping possible victims while follow on forces arrived.”
Using specialized equipment and advanced techniques, the highly trained team monitored radiation levels and began searching buildings and other structures for survivors and unsafe conditions. For the next four days, the team ran through multiple scenarios and possible incidents they could see in a real world catastrophe.
“After clearing roads of possible radiation fallout from the nuclear blast, we moved onto the surrounding buildings and structures,” said Capt. Jason Stockton, operations officer for the 45th. “We quickly discovered other threats.”
“While doing sweeps, the team discovered the remnants of a laboratory,” said Sgt. Gregory Manning, a survey team member. “We conducted analytical analysis and discovered that it was a lab for making Sarin, a very deadly nerve agent.” One of the skills that make the team valuable is their ability to quickly identify any agent or materials they find in their mobile laboratory.
Throughout the exercise, the team found other threats and trained on various scenarios that tested their skills. “We performed almost every conceivable mission we’re capable of, as well as others we’re not,” said Manning.
The team was established in 2002 and its primary function is to assist local first responders in determining the precise nature of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear incident, providding expert medical and technical advice as well as aid in the identification of the substance and how to best react to it. They have participated in multiple national exercises and have responded to real world events.
The job is considered one of the most dangerous in the National Guard, but the team members say they are well trained and always ready. “We take our jobs seriously,” said Manning. “Any mistake could cost you your life or the lives of your team.”