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Disaster training exercise scheduled for Kansas cities

Published on -7/28/2014, 12:32 PM

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Special to The Hays Daily News

A series of would-be life-threatening calamities are about to take place in Kansas as part of this year's Vigilant Guard 2014, a large-scale, multi-state disaster response exercise.

As participants of this exercise, Kansas National Guard's 22-person 73rd Civil Support Team will be joined Aug. 3 to 6 by CSTs from Missouri, Oklahoma and Iowa, as well as the Missouri National Guard's Homeland Response Force, and the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Enhanced Response Force Package teams from Missouri and Nebraska.

The CST portion of the Vigilant Guard 2014 exercise will take place in the Overland Park Fire Training Center, the Haysville CST Training Center and Crisis City, Salina.

The focus of these exercises will be to respond to and identify an unknown white powder and to respond to a hazardous materials situation with unknown chemicals. This will serve to test the National Guard CST response to potentially lethal bio-terrorism and chemical hazards. The exercises also will test how well the multiple CST teams can work together and how well they can integrate their efforts with the civilian agencies involved.

"This is the first time that all levels have been operational," said Maj. Robert Cole of the 73rd CST. "It gives us a chance for the very first time to exercise the battle hand-off and participate as a member of a unified National Guard CBRNE response enterprise."

The Missouri Guard's Homeland Response Force will include 400 soldiers and airmen headquartered in Salina to command all chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear elements during the Vigilant Guard exercise. Missouri also will have its CBRNE team participating and coordinating response efforts with the Nebraska CBRNE team.

The first exercise, in Overland Park, will include the 7th CST, Missouri National Guard, and a Weapons of Mass Destruction analysis team. The participants will respond to a simulated media studio where they will identify a white powder found in a letter indicating there might have been exposure to harmful substances. The 64th CST, Oklahoma National Guard, will participate in the exercise, which will replicate the previous scenario. The third exercise will include the CSTs from Iowa, Oklahoma and Kansas, who will respond to a hazmat emergency in Crisis City, Salina.

The 73rd CST and other participating players are not told about the specifics of the exercise so as to replicate a real-world emergency.

"It's going to really give us the best practice so that we're prepared in the future should we ever have to exercise this as an operation mission," Cole said. "Vigilant Guard is going to be really exciting for these teams."

The 73rd Civil Support Team is comprised of Active Guard and Reserve personnel from both the Army and Air National Guard. By congressional mandate, the Civil Support Teams must be certified every 18 months maintain its high level of proficiency and is expected to respond to national emergencies out of the state if required.

The mission of the 73rd CST is to "support civil authorities at domestic chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incident sites by identifying agents/substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with appropriate requests for additional support."

The CST is expected to deploy to any incident within the state of Kansas in the span of at least three hours.

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