85th Civil Support Team responds in times of need

By Tech Sgt. John Winn | Utah National Guard | May 20, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah —

What started as a low rumble, like that of a large truck driving past the house, quickly turned into picture frames swaying, the house rumbling, and then, an odd feeling of imbalance. Seated at my home office desk, I jumped up and ran for the doorway. It was there that I met my wife in the hallway, who just moments earlier, was working in the adjacent room, having a similar experience.

This couldn’t possibly be an earthquake, could it? Without hesitation, we grabbed our dog, and ran out the front door.

Although it might seem out of the ordinary for Utah, earthquakes aren’t uncommon. According to the Utah Geological Survey, Utah has experienced 17 earthquakes greater than a 5.5 since 1847. While not directly on a fault line, the quakes in the western part of the state are typically related to the Pacific plate, and quakes to the east generally related to coal mining activities.

On March 18, members of the Utah National Guard’s 85th Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team were called to an industrial facility near Magna, Utah, the epicenter of a 5.7m earthquake that took place earlier that morning, to assist with a chemical spill.

“We got the call from Unified Fire,“ said Major Todd Christensen, commander of the 85th CST. “The earthquake caused a hydrochloric acid spill at an industrial facility [near Magna, Utah]. Because of everything that was happening, Unified Fire was overtasked and there was concern about the immediate public safety threat with those chemicals.”

The CST deployed a survey team in personal protective equipment, along with equipment that detects hydrochloric acid. Once the operators were able to get a visual of how extensive the spill was, they tested the area and determined there was no immediate threat to public safety.

Utilizing an analytical laboratory system vehicle, which contains a full suite of analysis equipment to support the complete characterization of an unknown hazard, the CST was confident in advising the incident commander that the area was deemed safe for first responders and the local community.

“When we deploy, it’s important to understand that we work for an incident commander,” Christensen emphasized. “We don’t go take over the scene, we’re going directly to support that incident commander in making sure the threats to the public are mitigated.”

The CST is a homeland-defense unit, whose primary mission is to support civil authorities in responding to chemical, biological and nuclear threats, to include weapons of mass destruction, within the homeland. While they are trained to respond to such threats, day-to-day operations consist of assisting first responders with analyzing and identifying unknown agents at a scene, responding to HAZMAT incidents that overwhelm local capabilities, and operating in confined spaces.

They operate a unique equipment set which includes a command vehicle,
operations trailer, a specialized/secure communications vehicle (Unified Command Suite), and a mobile analytical laboratory system with a full suite of chemical, biological, and radiological analysis equipment, giving them the capability to test suspect agents on the scene, a unique capability that the state can dispatch within 90-minutes.

“The partner agencies we work with, specifically the fire department with this one, they’re very good at HAZMAT operations,” said Lt. Col. Robert Dent, medical officer for the 85th CST, discussing the earthquake response. “They took immediate steps to protect the public, and when we showed up, the main task at hand was to go in and characterize the spill.“

Dent said one of the challenges the CST faces is the wide variety of training and preparation for a variety of potential missions.

“Our missions could be anything from an illicit drug lab, to large-scale-industrial spills, to urban search and rescue. Each of those requires a different skillset.”

Members of the CST receive more than 650 hours of HAZMAT and high-tech training from agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. Through initial skills training, on-the-job training, and various certifications, the 22 full-time Army and Air National Guardsmen are able to conduct a myriad of operations.

The CST is comprised of various elements, including command, operations, logistics communications, medical, and the survey teams.

“We also have a physician assistant and a medic on the team who can provide medical monitoring and care to our soldiers and airmen on the team,” added Christensen. “They can advise an incident commander or other first responders including hospitals on how to treat, decontaminate, and deal with agents that a populace or first responders may be exposed to.”

Additionally, nearly one-third of the CST has been providing support to the COVID-19 response, working on the state’s task force since its inception. They assisted with the creation of testing and quarantine protocols and the actual testing and transporting of samples for the state public health lab.

“Because of the skillsets we develop in conducting our mission, we’ve been able to transfer those directly over to supporting the state” said Christensen. “We have a medical planner from the team assisting the department of health, as well as our physician assistant and science officer working on the governor’s task force for COVID-19.”

There are 57 WMD-CST’s located throughout each state and U.S. territory including Washington, D.C., with two in California, Florida and New York, all of which are on standby 24/7/365. From chemical spills, drug epidemics, nuclear detection and more, the mission of the CST is broad, but indispensable.

So the next time you feel the ground rattle beneath you, rest assured, the 85th CST of the Utah National Guard is ready at a moment's notice to respond.

 

 

 

Lt. Col. Woodrow Miner, commander, 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, is pinned with the rank of colonel by his wife at Utah National Guard headquarters in Draper, Utah,  June 17, 2020, with a date of rank May 21, 2020. Miner assumed command of the 204th MEB as a lieutenant colonel on Nov. 2, 2019, when Brig. Gen. Michael J. Turley was appointed to the position of adjutant general.
Col. Woodrow Miner: A Bold Commander
By Sgt. Nathaniel Free, 801-716-9162 | June 29, 2020
In a small room at Utah National Guard headquarters in Draper, Utah, accompanied  by a few masked

Approximately 200 Utah National Guard Soldiers returned to Salt Lake City, Sunday, June 7, 2020 following an activation at the request of the Secretary of Defense to augment civil authorities in Washington, D.C. amid civil unrest. Soldiers from Group Support Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) spent five days in D.C. providing security at national monuments and assisting in cleanup efforts.
Utah Army National Guard’s “Monuments Men” return to Salt Lake City following D.C. civil unrest
By 1st Lt. MARK SAGVOLD | June 15, 2020
Approximately 200 Utah Army National Guard Soldiers returned home to Salt Lake City, Utah, June 7,

A Utah National Guard Mobile Testing Team member conducts a nasopharyngeal sample collection on a Soldier in Salt Lake City to test if they are a carrier of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, May 27, 2020. To collect a sample a flocked swab is sent through the nasal cavity and will stay there for 20 seconds, be twisted and removed.
Protecting the Force
By Spc. Bryton Bluth | June 9, 2020
The Utah National Guard’s Mobile Testing Team administered nasopharyngeal swabs, testing Soldiers

Airman of the 151st Security Forces Squadron answer the call of Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert, to provide an extra layer of safety and security in response to demonstrations and rioting at the Utah State Capitol, as well as, the Salt Lake City and County Building.  (US Air National Guard  photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe A. Davis)
Utah Guard Activated by Order of the Governor
By Sgt. Nathaniel Free, 801-716-9162 | May 31, 2020
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Approximately 200 members of the Utah National Guard were activated by order

U.S. Army National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, assigned to the Utah National Guard, participate in medical training as a response force to Covid-19 in Sandy, Utah, May 12, 2020. Soldiers and Airmen with Utah National Guard will be assisting medical professionals in mobile Corona Virus test sites around the state as a service to Utah Residents. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Jacob Jesperson)
Utah National Guard Supports Utah Department of Health with COVID-19 Response
By Sgt. Nathaniel Free | May 19, 2020
More than 100 soldiers and airmen from the Utah National Guard arrived at the Mountain America Expo

As of May 14, 2020, the Utah National Guard has packaged 487,419 items of PPE, and delivered 45,066 packages to 3,601 businesses across Utah, from an improvised warehouse at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The Utah National Guard will continue to receive, stage and ship items of PPE to businesses across the state.
The Utah National Guard Helps Reopen Local Economy
By Sgt. Nathaniel Free | May 19, 2020
In a warehouse-sized dock at the back of the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah

A Black Hawk helicopter crew from 2nd General Aviation Support Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, Utah National Guard drops water on the Saddle Fire in Midway, Utah, May 14, 2020. Two UH-60 Black Hawks were in the air above Midway by 9 a.m. and dropped 85 to 90 bucket loads of water on the fire.
Utah Guard Aviation Fights Saddle Fire
By Ileen Kennedy | May 19, 2020
Black Hawk helicopter aircrews from 2nd General Aviation Support Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment,

Soldiers assigned to the Utah National Guard's 1st Battalion, 211th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, Aviation Regiment, depart the Army Aviation Support Facility, West Jordan, Utah, May 7, 2020. The battalion, comprised of three companies of AH-64 Apache helicopters and more than 300 soldiers, will provide combat air support to ground forces during the year-long deployment. (Utah National Guard photo by Ileen.Kennedy)
Utah Guard's Aviation Battalion Deploys During Pandemic 
By Ileen Kennedy | May 13, 2020
In this time of crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic, approximately 300 Utah National Guard Soldiers

On April 16, 2020, Pvt. 1st Class Hope Torok took the final step to join the Utah National Guard, during one of the worst weeks of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S.
“I’ve worked in retail pretty much all of my working years,” Torok explained. “During Covid-19 in March, I was furloughed from my work since it is considered a non-essential job.”
As a furloughed, non-essential worker, Torok said she had more time to think about what she wanted in life. She decided to sit down with a recruiter.
A message of hope: Utahns volunteer for military service during pandemic
By Spc. Felicia Olmos and Sgt. Nathaniel Free | April 30, 2020
Utahns continue to volunteer for military service despite increased restrictions on recruiting and

Spc. Kalani Bedell, a parachute rigger from the 19th Special Forces Group sews together two layers of fabric in this stage of mask production to protect Utah National Guard Soldiers during the Covid-19 Pandemic April 15, 2020 on Camp Williams. Masks are based on instructions from University of Florida Health, two layers of tightly woven cotton fabric. U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Ariel J. Solomon
Parachute Riggers Make Face Masks to Protect the Utah National Guard
By Sgt. Nathaniel Free | April 21, 2020
To slow the spread of COVID-19 among Soldiers and Airmen in the Utah National Guard, parachute