Florida National Guard simulates CBRN attack

A National Guard unit based in Fort Blanding, Florida, that is tasked with responding to biological and chemical attacks recently underwent a day-long evaluation by military authorities that consisted of a major simulated exercise.

The 44th Civil Support Team responded to reports of a laboratory producing a weapon of mass destruction in Green Cove Springs, according to Jacksonville.com.

From 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., the team secured the area, set up an operating base and sent search teams to scour the area, including an abandoned auto dealership. Many of the team were equipped with full hazmat gear.

"It's like putting a bag over your head and running on a treadmill," National Guard Sgt. Kyle Powers said, according to Jacksonville.com.

An eight-member team of observers from Northern Command watched the simulation unfold. They had arrived the day before in order to set up the suspected laboratory, plant fake bomb-making equipment and distribute liquids meant to simulate toxic chemicals.

The 44th Civil Support Team is one of two units in the state of Florida and one of 60 nationwide that are chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear first-responders. It was one of the first on scene for the 2001 anthrax attack in Palm Beach County.

"Our job is to go in and figure out where it is and what it is," Lt. Col. Michael Ladd, the unit's commanding officer, said, Jacksonville.com reports. Ladd said that the fact the exercise was only a drill did not take away from its urgency.