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VTNG trains with community health experts

By 01.21.2020 | Joint Force Headquarters | Jan. 20, 2020

Vermont National Guard, Colchester, Vt. —

COLCHESTER, Vt.- The 15th Civil Support Team assigned to the Vermont National Guard, is a group of specialized Soldiers and Airmen who support a variety of state and military missions and functions as well as emergencies. On January 6, they partnered with the Vermont Department of Health for a training exercise that entailed a rather unnerving, obscure scenario.

Once on scene, members of the 15th CST quickly established a base of operation in the parking lot of the Vermont Department of Health’s Colchester lab, consisting of almost a dozen large blue trucks, tents, equipment and items being meticulously placed.

“We’re practicing right now for all hazards at the training events we do on the civil support team,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Downs, logistics noncommissioned officer. “Today, I’m in charge of the decon [decontamination] section, being the physical removal or neutralization of a chemical agent.”

Just prior to entering the potentially contaminated building during the exercise, Soldiers, Airmen, and Vermont Department of Health staff gathered in a personnel tent to brief the teams on the scenario, their responsibilities and channels of communication. The exercise scenario focused on an unknown individual who somehow gained access to a lab, tampered with and potentially removed an unknown hazardous contaminant somewhere in the building.


“Today, we’re at the Vermont Department of Health lab for a training mission to address a potential hazard down range. Our team is here to provide assessment and assistance to the lab to identify an unknown agent,” Downs said.

A priority for the exercise was for the 15th CST to partner with the Vermont Department of Health to locate and identify the unknown agent that was removed from the lab, determine the safety of the staff, any contingent hazards, decontaminate the exposed staff and safely evacuate the facility.

“The survey members are the individuals on the team that will go into a hazardous environment in order to identify and address a potential hazard,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. James Fox, survey team leader.

The respective teams exited the briefing tent and began attending to their duties. Two survey team members remained in the tent and donned respirators and large orange suits.

“After discussions with staff here at the lab, it was mentioned they have a training lab which gives us the chance to go somewhere new and, in turn, provides a good experience for some of our newer members,” Fox said.

Team members thoroughly enjoy exercises such as these because they witness the positive results.

“We’re a state asset and what we do is assist other state entities with training, and HAZMAT responses that can assist the state in areas outside of typical military operations,” Fox said. “For us, this is great because it’s a chance to come to a new venue and to train newer members of the team on how the CST functions.”

The 15th CST is a robust team of Soldiers and Airmen that are experts in a variance of disciplines, such as EMTs and nuclear, biological and chemical specialists; to operations, communication systems, and civil engineering.

“The Civil Support Team is designed primarily to provide assistance to the civilian community, local responders and civilian agencies,” said 15th CST communication team chief, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Justin Jackson “We have military roles and civilian interface roles, but a lot of the communication capabilities are really geared towards helping out the community to provide some interoperability communications.”

The 15th CST continues to expand their scope of expertise and skills by training with a growing list of state and federal partnerships to capture optimal readiness for all involved.

“I am excited by the possibilities the Guard can offer young women and men,” said U. S. Army Brig. Gen. Greg Knight, Vermont’s Adjutant General. “The Guard is all about possibilities and potential.”