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West Virginia Guard CST Responds to Ohio Train Derailment

  • Published
  • By Edwin Wriston,
  • West Virginia National Guard

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia National Guard’s 35th Civil Support Team deployed to East Palestine, Ohio, to help first responders respond to the Feb. 3 derailment of a train containing hazardous materials.

The Ohio National Guard contacted the WVNG J3 Joint Operations Center at about noon Feb. 6 to request the 35th CST’s assistance with a 150-car derailment. The train included approximately 10 “hazmat cars” — five carrying the chemical vinyl chloride, a volatile suspected carcinogen.

Within the hour, the 35th was placed on alert and preparing to deploy seven personnel and equipment to assist. The team included a nuclear medical science officer to help process water samples to make sure chemicals were not leaching into local water supplies, a plume model specialist to forecast potential hazardous material airborne plumes, three survey specialists to collect air and water samples, and two members of the unit leadership team to work with on-scene counterparts and emergency management officials. 

“Our personnel are currently on the ground assisting a combined local, state and federal response to this dangerous and life-threatening incident,” said Lt. Col. Jerry Floyd, 35th CST commander. “Our team members are highly trained for these exact type situations, and we are proud to provide assistance to our neighbors in Ohio.

“The Ohio 52nd CST was the very first team on the ground in 2016 to assist West Virginia during the 2014 Elk River MCHM spill,“ Floyd said. “It’s our honor to return the favor and provide support for and with them.”

The 35th CST comprises 22 full-time Army and Air National Guard members assigned to 14 specialties to support civil authorities at domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive incidents. 

The 35th CST is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It uses specialized equipment and training to help identify unknown substances, assess consequences and advise how to respond.  

“The motto of the National Guard is, ‘Always Ready, Always There’, and this incident is a prime example of the realization of that motto,” said Maj. Gen. William “Bill” Crane, West Virginia adjutant general. “The rapid deployment of critical assets during this time-sensitive endeavor will undoubtedly help to stabilize a potentially life-threatening situation and help on-scene first responders and personnel save lives, property and critical infrastructure from further damage and threat.”

The 35th CST is one of 57 civil support teams across the United States.