National Guard team helps when a crisis
Training scenarios take place at Muscatatuck
Spc. Robert G. Cooper III
Indiana National Guard
Screaming victims, multiple casualties and the
fallout from a nuclear detonation inundate the once peaceful atmosphere
of a local shopping mall. Victims flee from a department store,
deafened by the explosion and unable to hear police instructions.
A few miles away, the Indiana National Guards 53rd Civil
Support Team snaps into action.
Although the explosion was only a training scenario, it didnt
keep the 53rd team from treating the catastrophe like a real event.
Fake blood, role-playing civilians and mock dirty bombs failed
to prevent the team from completing its first mission of the 11-day
Operation Vigilant Guard training exercise.
The joint exercise involves more than 2,000 National Guard members
from Indiana and several other states, along with first responders
including the Department of Homeland Security and other state
and federal agencies. Vigilant Guard is testing the 53rds
full range of capabilities.
Staged at the Indiana National Guards Muscatatuck Urban
Training Center, located on U.S. 50 in Jennings County, one of
the nations premier National Guard training sites, the exercise
is centered on a 10-kiloton nuclear detonation in central Indiana.
One scenario within the exercise involves an explosion at the
shopping mall where the 53rd assisted law enforcement agencies.
Our primary responsibility is to assist local and state
emergency personnel, said Maj. Paul Navas, the teams
commander. When (first responders) dont have the capabilities,
thats where we come in. This mission was a joint effort
between SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) and EOD (Explosive
Ordinance) assets. While SWAT neutralized any possible threats,
EOD checked for explosives. We made sure that the surrounding
atmosphere was safe. They wanted CST to monitor the operation,
which was a success.
The training scenario also displayed the affiliation between the
Indiana National Guard and other state agencies.
This exercise allows us to tie in with other forces, which
has been excellent, said Sgt. Corey Gavin, administrative
noncommissioned officer for the 53rd. Its great, because
one, it builds good relationships, and two, it gives us an idea
of their capabilities and them of ours.
Designed to counter major emergencies and incidents involving
weapons of mass destruction, the 53rd is comprised of 22 full-time
Army and Air National Guard members, each an expert in emergency
response and recovery as well as chemical, biological, radiological
and nuclear agents. Each CST contains six sections: command, operations,
communications, administration/logistics, medical and survey.
The team evaluates hazards and offers expert advice and support
to first responders.
Were the first military in during an emergency situation,
Gavin said. Everything we do-when we train or when we react-we
adapt to a new scenario.
Each member receives more than 600 hours of training with agencies
including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department
of Energy, Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection
We train a lot because it builds cohesion, Gavin said.
Were a pretty close family, and for good reason. After
going into a hot zone, my teammates know that Im not going
to miss a beat and that Im doing my best to ensure their
He said the exercise is also helping the 53rd and the Indiana
National Guard to continue to develop a positive rapport with
Weve already built a good relationship with the civil
authorities, and we will continue to do so throughout the course
of this exercise, he said. Well also have a
really good time in the process.
Sgt. Aaron Tinsley with the 53rd Civil Support Team
(CST) takes a radiation reading at the site of a simulated
nuclear explosion during Operation Vigilant Guard at the
Muscatatuck Urban Training Center May 10, 2007. The site,
offering a simulated urban environment to allow for realistic
training, is hosting the Indiana National Guard and other
state and local agencies throughout the exercise. Among
the first days scenarios is a nuclear detonation,
evacuation of fallout sites, an explosive device threat
at a nearby shopping mall and mass casualty assistance.
(U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Spc. Robert G. Cooper)