Vermont's 15th Civil Support Team Trains at the Government Training Institute

April 22, 2013 By U.S. Air National Guard Capt. Robert A. Burgess Jr., 15th CST
Photos by 1st Lt. Jeffrey Rivard. Released by Capt. Chris Gookin

15th CST Training
U.S. Army Capt. Chad Dearborn, left, an instructor with the Army Mountain Warfare School and Sgt. Stephen Holt with the 15th Civil Support Team prepare a litter for hoisting at the Government Training Institute in Barnwell, S.C., April 18, 2013. The Army Mountain Warfare School instructors taught members of the 15th Civil Support Team proper high angle rescue techniques.

Members of the 15th Civil Support Team deployed via convoy to Barnwell, S.C., in support of a unique training operation designed to hone and expand their skills in responding to a chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological and explosive weapons (CBNRE) event.

As part of a multi-unit training plan, the civil support team coordinated efforts with the Army Mountain Warfare School or AMWS to develop a training curriculum designed to evaluate, train, equip, and exercise CST members high angle rope rescue and confined space entry.

The South Carolina trip was the culminating event for a process that began last fall and included hands on specialized training by the AMWS and civilian rescue organizations.

15th CST Training
Capt. Chad Dearborn (right), 1st Lt. Troy Cyr (center) and Sgt. Stephen Holt, steady a litter while it is hoisted through a latter-way at the Government Training Institute in Barnwell, S.C., April 17, 2013. Members of the 15th CST worked with Army Mountain Warefare School instructors to practice tactics and techniques for high angle rescue.

The training scenario was set on the backdrop of a decommissioned nuclear fuel processing plant located in Barnwell.

In the exercise scenario, a civil nuclear power plant had experienced a radiological emergency and the 15th CST was called upon to use its skills in assisting the incident commander as part of the plant recovery process. This included radiological monitoring, high angle victim rescue, confined space entry and multiple victim trauma care and extraction.

Additionally, a hip pocket training opportunity presented itself which allowed the CST to integrate with a SWAT team from the Orange County, N.Y., Sheriff's Department.

The training venue provided a key realistic training environment that would be expected in a modern industrial setting.

15th CST Training
Members of the 15th Civil Support Team, Vermont National Guard, conduct Joint CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive weapons) and high angle ropes rescue training with instructors of the Army Mountain Warfare School at the Government Training Institute in Barnwell, S.C., April 17, 2013. The Government Training Institute is a decommissioned nuclear facility that has been converted into a training site.

"This exercise and the location forced the CST to think out of the normal ARNORTH style mindset to more of a realistic civilian support and search and rescue scenario," said Lt. Col. Adam Rice, commander of the team.

The decommissioned plant has largely been left intact from a process and structural standpoint. Although the fuel processing has been decommissioned, the facility infrastructure remains in place which added the level of complexity needed for the CST to effectively train for an industrial accident.

By integrating AMWS instructors Capt. Chad Dearborn and Sgt. 1st Class Max Rooney into the scenario as role players-instructors; the CST was able to reach out for their unique and specialized expertise while at the same time being challenged to utilize their newly acquired skills to perform rescue missions.

15th CST Training
A member of the 15th Civil Support Team, left, enters a room cleared by the sheriff's department in Barnwell, S.C. during a training exercise April 18, 2013.

"Getting the whole team together and working together to use the equipment and work out the kinks was awesome! This puts the 15th CST in a whole different bracket based on our ability to perform confined space entry and rope rescue," stated Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Smith, NCOIC of the confined space entry team.

Due to the success of the planning and execution process related to this exercise, and based on a resounding "Sustain" on the part of all the members involved, the stage is set for continued collaboration between the AMWS and the CST.

Visiting Vermont Deputy Adjutant General, Col. Mike Heston, observed several of the training scenarios conducted April 14-20 and was impressed. He praised the Soldiers and Airmen during an after-action review or AAR, and offered guidance and a challenge to the team.

"In the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings and Texas chemical plant explosion, the training you members are getting this week will someday be put into use," said Heston. "Make no mistake; we can no longer say it won't happen in our city or state. National Guard CST's must be ready for not only the CBRNE threat, but the all-hazards response. Integrating the mountain warfare soldiers into your training is a game changer in terms of capability. I challenge you; invite, educate and expose other CST's, first responders from our state to this type of training."