Ohio National Guard News

52nd Civil Support Team trains for worst case scenarios

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs
Video by Sgt. Andrew Kuhn, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Ryan Menth, a survey team lead with the 52nd Civil Support Team (Weapons of Mass Destruction), dons a protective suit (right) and then checks the readings on his equipment (left) as he scans a simulated drug lab Aug. 9, 2018, during a training exercise at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. The 52nd CST is trained and equipped to identify and assess chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards, assisting first responders during natural disasters or man-made catastrophes.

Capt. Mary Hummel, a medical operations officer with the 52nd Civil Support Team (Weapons of Mass Destruction), collects, and identifies, a sample of an unknown substance for analysis Aug. 9, 2018, during a training exercise at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

DAYTON, Ohio (08/09/18) — First responders like police or firefighters are the go-to people when an emergency happens, but who do they call when they encounter a potentially hazardous situation? When they come across unidentified substances, they call the Soldiers and Airmen of the Ohio National Guard’s 52nd Civil Support Team (Weapons of Mass Destruction).

“We are on call 24/7 to support the civilian first responders in the state of Ohio as well as across the country if needed,” said Lt. Col. Sy Gladden, 52nd CST commander. “Our role is to identify unknown chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials at incident sites.”

The Soldiers and Airmen of the 52nd CST are equipped to enter into potentially hazardous areas to identify substances that threaten first responders, such as caustic chemicals or biological agents or even nuclear hazards.

“One of our unique capabilities is to take an unknown situation and make it known,” Gladden said. “So we can have the information and make recommendations for first responders and civilian authorities.”

Once on site, survey team members assess the situation, using a variety of detection devices to take readings for the analyst on the team to render an initial assessment. Then other personnel move into take samples, both for onsite analysis and to send back to laboratories to confirm the results.

Once the hazards have been identified, the experts of the 52nd CST advise civilian authorities on possible challenges posed to the threat and how to remediate them.

The 52nd CST is constantly training with first responders across Ohio, not just to hone their operational skill sets, but to build relationships.

“You don’t want to meet somebody for the first time in a real-world response,” said Staff Sgt. Adam Long, the operations noncommissioned officer for the 52nd. “We get to know each other and work with each other prior to the event and know them personally.”

As part of a congressionally mandated program to provide identification, analysis and mitigation resources to first responders, each of the civil support teams across the country are evaluated and validated every 18 months to ensure their skills are up to the task of helping keep communities safe and protecting the homeland.

“There is a real-world threat out there,” Long said. “We are there to keep the public safe — if there is an unknown threat out there, we want to be prepared and make sure people can remain safe.”

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