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Virginia Guard CST, State Police Team Up for Training Exercise

  • Published
  • By Mike Vrabel,
  • Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

BLACKSTONE, Va. - Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the 34th Civil Support Team trained with Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation bomb technicians March 19-21 at the Blackstone Readiness Center. 

The 34th CST supports civil authorities in a domestic chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive incident. The evaluated tasks included deploying the team, establishing communications and medical support, conducting surveys, technical decontamination, analytical functions and interagency coordination.

CST and VSP elements worked together to identify possible explosive hazards while maintaining crime scene integrity. 

“The focus of training this week was the integration of the 34th CST with the Virginia State Police BCI bomb technicians,“ said Lt. Col. Thomas Mecadon, commander of the 34th CST. “The ability of these two agencies to understand each other’s processes and procedures on approaching an incident is crucial for interoperability and support.”

While many of the CST’s training events are focused on chemical, biological or radiological hazards and threats, the team trains on explosive threats annually. 

“Due to our mission, the possibility to encounter an explosive combined with a CBRN agent is likely,” said Mecadon. “The benefits of training with VSP bomb technicians and other bomb tech agencies allows us to better prepare for a response and learn how we complement each other.”

Participants conducted reconnaissance surveys on a suspected explosive threat. The teams also trained on a simulated “man down” scenario, giving the entire CST realistic training on procedures to evacuate and decontaminate a fallen colleague. The second full-scale exercise focused on a radiation threat. 

“The integration of the two teams on Day 1 was flawless,” said Mecadon. “The downrange operation of the VSP technician with 34th CST members allowed both agencies to identify potential explosive hazards and precursors for production. Day 2 focused on radiation and a wide-scale search of an area with strong samples that masked each other and presented a challenge to our survey team. The survey team was able to fight through this, relying on previous lessons and techniques learned to pinpoint and identify the exact location and isotopes present.”

The 34th CST has six sections: command, operations, communications, administration/logistics, medical/analytical and survey. Members complete 500 to 900 hours of specialized training in their first year of assignment and continue advanced training with multiple agencies, including the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the National Fire Academy, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The team’s primary response area is a 300-mile radius from its home station at Fort Barfoot, from Pennsylvania to South Carolina. It can deploy an advance team within 90 minutes and the main body in three hours.