The scene in Kingston, New York, was like something out of a zombie apocalypse movie.
There was a large 150-year-old alms house that was in obvious disrepair, unmarked blue trailers with satellite dishes around the perimeter, and people in bright orange HAZMAT suits waving handheld scanners and speaking in muffled voices.
The Kingston Fire Department HAZMAT Team truck was parked near a blue sedan that had what looked like a lifeless body in the driver’s seat. Moments later, several firemen were taken to the hospital exhibiting symptoms of what appeared to be toxic inhalation.
The next call was to the New York National Guard’s 2nd Weapons of Mass Destruction – Civil Support Team (WMD-CST).
That was the scenario given to the Scotia-based WMD-CST (CST) during its joint training event with the Kingston Fire Department HAZMAT team on Nov. 28, 2018.
The CST has 22 full-time Soldiers and Airmen from the New York National Guard and supports local civil authorities during chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) events throughout the State (except for Long Island, New York City and Westchester County).
“We’re always looking for an opportunity to train with local fire departments,” said LTC Aron Sacchetti, commander of the CST.
LTC Sacchetti is committed to enhancing the interoperability between military and local agencies during CBRN responses. His goal is to train in advance of an event and not meet for the first time when lives are on the line.
Since the CST trains with the newest equipment and procedures, the local agencies gain hands-on experience before an actual emergency arises.
SSG David Hansen, the CST’s training noncommissioned officer, said a big selling point for local agencies to engage in the joint training events is learning the newest methods for decontamination.
“These events become a ‘train-the-trainer’ opportunity for smaller agencies that might not have the resources available to send their people across the country every year to learn the newest techniques,” SSG Hansen said.
The CST members used Class A HAZMAT suits, which provide the highest level of protection available. The suits include a 25-pound breathing apparatus that supplies four hours of clean air, two-way radios and heavy duty chemical resistant gloves.
One of the new techniques practiced during the training was the use of a recently developed commercial decontamination agent for scrubbing the Class A suits after possible exposure to a contaminant. This replaced the previous method that included only water and bleach.
Not only did this training event showcase new decontamination techniques, but it also marked the first time this CST had a civilian CBRN training company facilitate the exercise.
BY SSG MICHAEL DAVIS, NEW YORK NATIONAL GUARD