Missouri National Guard trains against bioterrorism

Twenty-two men and women of the Missouri National Guard’s 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, based in Jefferson City, Missouri, trained with first-responders and civil authorities in a series of exercises to fight biological terrorism last week.

The team, composed of Missouri Army and Air National Guardsmen, conducts this training approximately once every month, SEMissourian.com reports. Their regular mission is to support civil emergency teams at domestic chemical, biological, radiological and high-yield explosives incident sites with hazardous substances identification, consequence assessment and response assessment, and in assisting in requests for additional aid at the state and national level.

The training began on September 8 and lasted until September 10. It started with an internal hazmat exercise, followed by a joint hazmat exercise with local authorities and ending with a joint hazmat exercise with the Region E Homeland Security Response Team in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. All three events were related.

"My objective for the team was to start working towards the goal of completing a 72-hour exercise," Capt. Theresa Wagner, the team's operations officer and the scenario designer, said, according to SEMissourian.com. "It has been a couple of years since we did successive exercises and it tests our endurance both mentally and physically. It makes the team look at a hazard from all perspectives and figure out all pieces. It also maximizes our training time available during our scheduled temporary duty trips."

In one scenario, a team was called to a livestock auction company where several cows had mysteriously fallen ill and died. Inside the barn, a team member of the 7th’s reconnaissance section discovered a lab manufacturing an unknown substance. The rest of the team analyzed the chemicals being made and determined that it was not only dangerous, but had also been used to contaminate the cattle’s drinking water.

During the exercise, Sgt. Hugh Mills suffered a simulated broken leg and had to be evacuated while still wearing his hazmat gear. He then had to be removed from the site and decontaminated.

"I think by far, anytime we get a chance to put on the suit and run a complete mission just as new guys, so we can work out the kinks ourselves, is much more beneficial," Mills told SEMissourian.com. "Being able to see from our perspective and learn at our level right there is invaluable."