WOODFIN, North Carolina –
Every 18 months, the 42nd Civil Support Team, part of the North Carolina National Guard, is required to be validated on core tasks, such as the decontamination process, identifying threats and materials, and coordinating with civilian authorities in a realistic setting.
“CSTs go through an evaluation process to reassess and affirm they can still do the job they are designed to accomplish, “ said Derrick Johnson, a civilian team chief within the Army North CST Activity, with 20 years of experience.
“They are tested on operational fluidity, medical and analytical processes, and how they advise the incident commander on actions to protect the public," Johnson said. “These soldiers and airmen sign up to do a very tough and dangerous job, to protect the citizens of North Carolina and our country. What they do is import to protect the general public and the nation against adversaries that may not have our best interests in mind.”
Members of the 42nd CST utilized the entire inventory of equipment to include the command and communication trucks, decontamination station and mobile lab. "We have a mission that is really important and requires a high state of readiness," said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Kenna, the 42nd CST information systems analyst who manages the communications truck so “people can talk.”
“Our primary mission is CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive devises) response, but our secondary mission is hurricane relief efforts," Kenna said. “Hurricanes Matthew, Florence, Maria in Puerto Rico, Irene, Katrina, Rita, every high profile hurricane has had a CST response and our communications capability spearheaded that.”
The training in Buncombe County involved coordination with the Haywood Community College, Haywood County Emergency Management, Buncome County Emergency Management as well as local emergency medical services. Training with civilian counterparts and first responders helps build confidence in the abilities and procedures of all the participants, should the 42nd CST's services be called upon.
“I’m blessed. Its bittersweet because this is my last training exercise,” said Lt. Col. Joel Eberley, the 42nd CST commander, who is retiring after 31 years of military service. “The worlds a dangerous place and luckily we have not had any severe injuries to the CST and first responders.
“It's difficult to get on the team. There are intense requirements. They are highly trained individuals and go to numerous schools and operate highly specialized equipment for their mission," Eberley added.
The 42nd CST is made up of 22 active duty North Carolina National Guard service members and is on call 24 hours a day. They conduct rigorous training with emergency responders and are prepositioned at NC’s largest events such as Presidential visits, concerts and sporting events.
“We do a minimum of 20 exercises a year while going to school to keep certified,” said Sgt. 1st Class Edward Mongillo, the 42nd CST survey team chief. “The survey team is the bread and butter down range. We recon samples for chemical or biological threats and give them to the lab.”
Mongillo enjoys being on the 42nd CST and to be of service to the citizens and emergency responders of North Carolina.
“It’s that benefit of being in the National Guard and helping your state. There are lots of places in North Carolina that first responders don't have the capabilities we do. They may not know about us. They can call us if they need support. We are free for them and can be driving to them in just two hours," Mongillo said.
In the validation scenario, the 42nd CST entered a building to assess hazardous threats of what appeared to be a drug lab. They also detected presence of a radiological threat.
“We are ready for last call response to assess potential hazards down range and give analysis,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Youngbar, who is on the 42nd CST decontamination team.
Potential contaminates the decontamination team may encounter are risen, fentanyl, anthrax, radiation, biological threats and other hazardous chemicals.
“The 42nd CST is a great team and asset to NC. I like how viable we are to the state and it brings the National Guard into the bigger picture by supporting local law enforcement and emergency responders,” Youngbar added.
This validation proves that the unit is ready to respond to a chemical, radiological or biological event. U.S. Army North provides training and evaluates specialized units in the National Guard to meet homeland defense and homeland security mission sets.