NEWS | May 20, 2020

85th Civil Support Team responds in times of need

By Tech Sgt. John Winn Utah National Guard

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.




Your Career Starts Here

U.S. Army Cpl. Spencer Fayles with Utah’s 144th Area Support Medical Company, receives a certificate of participation during the Region VII Best Warrior Competition award ceremony on the island of Guam, May 26, 2022. This annual competition featured the best noncommissioned officer and Soldier from eight different states and territories including Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. Testing competitors’ skills and knowledge and pushing them to their limits, the competition graded each participant in key areas such as basic Soldier skills, marksmanship under stress, land-navigation, and physical fitness. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Hack)
Two Utah Soldiers awaken "Warrior Spirit" at Region VII Best Warrior Competition
By Staff Sgt. Jordan Hack | June 4, 2022
A Soldier’s transformation into a warrior is difficult to describe. Hand-picked by leadership, proving themselves with every drop of sweat, every sore muscle, and every labored breath; Soldiers who compete naturally don the...

Brig. Gen. Frank Gräfe, the defense attaché from the Federation of Germany to the United States, (left) and Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Boyack, Commander of the Utah Air National Guard & Assistant Adjutant General-Air, (right) pose using the iconic “thumbs up” that Gail Halvorsen was known for on May 20th at the Provo City Cemetary. The Utah Air National Guard was in attendance to show support and honor the heroic efforts of Gail Halvorsen. (Utah Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt Nicholas Perez)
Honoring a war hero who delivered hope
By Staff Sgt. Nicholas Perez | May 31, 2022
Ret. U.S. Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, known as the “Candy Bomber”, was honored by top leadership from the Utah Air National Guard, Utah National Guard, and Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany with the laying of two...

The Utah National Guard FEMA Region VIII Homeland Response Force held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Collapsed Structure Venue Site which included a demonstration and static display of capabilities May 10, 2022 at Camp Williams, Utah. The CSVS is one of only three military owned Urban Search and Rescue training venues west of the Rocky Mountains. This CSVS will allow both military search and extract and civilian search and rescue teams the opportunity to train together and build those necessary partnerships needed in an “all hazards” response. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. John Etheridge)
Camp Williams adds a Premiere Search and Extraction Training Site to Benefit the Homeland Response Force, State, Region, and Nation.
By Lt. Col. Robert Ramage Warden | May 11, 2022
The Utah National Guard has a new training site for the Region VIII Homeland Response Force’s search and extraction team, as well as partner civilian urban search and rescue teams. Lt. Col. Erick R. Wiedmeier, commander of...

Members of the Combined Veterans Honor Guard joined members from the Utah National Guard Honor Guard in conducting military funeral honors for the remains of Cpl. David Milano April 29, 2022 in Ogden, Utah. Milano went missing in action Dec. 2, 1950, during the Korean War. After 71 years, his remains have been repatriated to the United States and have been laid to rest on U.S. soil. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Sgt. John Etheridge)
A Family's Faith: Chosin Soldier Comes Home
By Staff Sgt. Jordan Hack | May 3, 2022
Often referred to as “the Forgotten War,” the Korean War’s significance tends to be overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam War. Even in that light, it’s nothing short of a miracle that Korean War service members are...

Chief Warrant Officer4 Deena Haag
The Utah National Guard Celebrates Women’s History Month in March 2022
By (Courtesy article) | March 31, 2022
During the month of March, the Utah National Guard celebrates Women’s History and honors and acknowledges the struggles and achievements of American women throughout the history of the United States. Women have played a vital...

The 2-222nd Field Artillery Battalion, “Triple Deuce,” held a reunion for all current and former members of the unit March 19, 2022, at the Stanley A. Staheli Readiness Center in St. George, Utah. This event marks the fifth time in the last eight years that the group has rallied to reunite and reflect on their time spent in service to the nation, state, and community of Southern Utah.
2-222 Field Artillery Battalion “Triple Deuce” holds reunion for former and current members
By Maj. Emilio Suazo | March 19, 2022
The 2-222nd Field Artillery Battalion, “Triple Deuce,” held a reunion for all current and former members of the unit March 19, 2022, at the Stanley A. Staheli Readiness Center in St. George, Utah...

Brig. Gen. Tyler Smith receives his certificate of retirement from Maj. Gen. Michael Turley, adjutant general, Utah National Guard, at his retirement ceremony, March 14, 2022, at Camp Williams, Utah. Smith, whose most recent assignment was assistant adjutant general-Army, Utah National Guard, was joined by family, friends and community members to celebrate his 36-year career in the military. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Sgt. John Etheridge)
Brig. Gen. Tyler B. Smith, former assistant adjutant general-Army, retires after 35-years of service
By Staff Sgt. Ariel Solomon | March 16, 2022
Family, friends, co-workers and community members gathered to say farewell to Brig. Gen. Tyler Smith, the former assistant adjutant general-Army, Utah National Guard, at his retirement ceremony March 15, 2022, in the Lundell...

Maj. Gen Michael Turley, adjutant general, Utah National Guard, passes the organizational colors to Brig. Gen. Joseph Green during a change-of-command ceremony March 13, 2022 at Draper, Utah. During the change-of-command ceremony, Brig. Gen. Joseph Green assumed the role of assistant adjutant general-Army, Utah National Guard, from Brig. Gen. Tyler Smith. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ariel J. Solomon)
Utah National Guard promotes and welcomes new assistant adjutant general-Army at change-of-command ceremony
By 1st Sgt. John Etheridge | March 14, 2022
The Utah National Guard welcomed its new assistant adjutant general-Army at a change-of-command ceremony March 13, 2022, at its headquarters building in Draper, Utah...

Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Brown passes the 97th Troop Command colors to Col. Tammy Manwaring during the change-of-command ceremony on Camp Williams, Utah, March 13, 2022. Manwaring will then pass the colors on to her successor, symbolically relinquishing her responsibility as the unit's commander. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Cpl. Alejandro Lucero)
97th Troop Command conducts change of responsibility
By Cpl. Alejandro Lucero | March 12, 2022
The 97th Troop Command, Utah Army National Guard, conducted a change-of-command ceremony at the Lundell Readiness Center on Camp Williams, Utah, March 13, 2022. During the ceremony, Col. Tammy Manwaring relinquished command...

Sgt. First Class Robert Conder, a soldier with the 141st Military Intelligence Battalion, Utah National Guard, and members of Boy Scout troop take a break from collecting and loading donations for the Scouting for Food drive in Draper, Utah, Feb. 12, 2022. The Utah National Guard is committed to the Scouting for Food drive as it unites Utahns from multiple counties in the fight against hunger. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Alejandro Lucero)
Utah National Guard Assists Boy Scouts to Feed Utah Families
By Sgt. James Bunn | Feb. 17, 2022
Soldiers from the Utah National Guard partnered with Boy Scouts of America to collect food donations across Utah for Scouting for Food Day Feb. 12, 2022. This year approximately 75 Utah National Guard members helped deliver...