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Iowa Guard, Kosovo Partners Train in HAZMAT Exercise

  • Published
  • By Sgt. Rachel White,
  • Joint Force Headquarters - Iowa National Guard

DES MOINES, Iowa - The 71st Civil Support Team and two dozen members of the Kosovo Security Force trained together in a hazardous materials exercise in September.

“All I could think of was how to find the hazard,” said Sgt. Leutrim Shala, a member of the Kosovo Security Force Hazardous Materials Company. 

Kosovo and the Iowa National Guard have been partners under the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program since 2011. Their partnership allows military, security and public safety agencies to work together in training scenarios. 

Shala led a group of three KSF members through Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines to find the HAZMAT scenarios planted by the 71st CST, the Defense Threat Agency, and Scott Wendt, the radiation safety officer at Iowa State University’s Health and Safety Department.

A homemade explosive device was hidden in a locker room, waiting to be assembled on a wooden table. All that was missing was the suspect.

There were clues to give the KSF members an idea of the type of hazardous materials to be found. 

A second threat was a backpack with enough radiological exposure to be detected by the KSF without endangering anyone. 

“Instead of blowing it up, sometimes it’s good enough to set a large source somewhere and allow people to be exposed to it,” said 2nd. Lt. James Leaman, the operations officer for the 71st CST. “Radiation sickness would be the symptom following the incident.”

The exercise completed a week of training. 

The 71st CST works with fire departments, law enforcement, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and other HAZMAT professionals to identify, assess, advise and assist in potentially threatening situations involving chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear substances. Kosovo relies on its KSF HAZMAT team to evaluate conditions and dispose of any substances.

“The main difference between the Kosovo Security Force HAZMAT Company and us,” said Leaman, “is that they don’t have any HAZMAT support. Whereas in Iowa, we have HAZMAT teams all over the place.”

Kosovo aims to expand its fire departments and other organizations to augment the KSF HAZMAT Company.

“The big thing that we are getting from this, that can be missed by some people, is that we are learning from them as well,” said Leaman. “They respond to more things in their [country] than we ever do in the state.”