Inside the command unit.

Two Civil Support Teams (WMD-CST), National Guard units comprised of Army and Air National Guard soldiers and airmen from Vermont and New York, engaged in day-long emergency response exercises on Hamilton College’s campus on Thursday, March 15.

One of their regular training venues, the Oriskany State Preparedness Training Center, was unable to accommodate the units. With Hamilton nearby and relatively inactive during spring break, the opportunity to train here seemed ideal. The New York team hadn’t trained on a college campus before although they had been called on for a real emergency at Cornell, and the Vermont team had only one experience doing so on St. Michael’s College campus.

The teams took turns identifying and assessing simulated weapons of mass destruction in the List Art Center which is temporarily empty. Hamilton College Emergency Response Team members observed the exercises, allowing them to refine their own emergency operating procedures.

Both teams emphasized how the opportunity to work together on campus strengthened their ease and familiarity with the other’s procedures in the event of a real emergency. They also appreciated the opportunity to work in an academic facility, a venue that varied from other training experiences. Officials from the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control were also on hand to observe.

The mission of the CSTs is to identify chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents and substances, assess current and projected consequences, advise on response measures and assist with requests for additional support. Examples of operations in which they have participated in the past include the 2001 World Trade Center response, the Space Shuttle Columbia recovery, the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, the Hurricane Katrina recovery, the Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy response as well as various national and state special security events.

Members receive more than 600 hours of high-tech training by agencies such as Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency. They operate specialized equipment, including a specialized/secure communications vehicle, and a mobile analytical laboratory system with a full suite of chemical, biological, and radiological analysis equipment. They are federally resourced, trained, equipped, and sustained, yet state-controlled.

The two teams come from New York and Vermont. Each unit is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel and is jointly staffed with Army and Air National Guard personnel, and encompasses 14 military occupational skills.

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