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Guard Teams to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2000 – DoD announced plans Jan. 13 to form 17 more Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams, bringing the total nationwide to 27.

The teams, originally called Rapid Assessment and Detection teams, would deploy and assist civil first responders in the event of a weapons of mass destruction incident, said Charles Cragin, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.

The federal government will train, equip and develop doctrine for the teams, Cragin said. The teams will always work in support of civilian agencies and unless federalized will remain under the control of the governors of the host state.

The new teams will be based in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia. They will come on line in 2001 between March and July.

The first 10 designated teams are completing training and are scheduled to come on line in April 2000 in Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.

The teams work collaboratively with local and state first providers, Cragin said. The teams consist of 22 full-time members of the Army or Air National Guard. The personnel selected for these additional teams will undergo 15 months of rigorous individual and unit training and then will be evaluated for operational certification.

This is the second phase of an initiative started in fiscal 1998. [Defense Secretary William Cohen] was apprised by first responders in many communities that one bit of expertise they needed was the technical expertise to identify and assess particular chemical or biological agents that may be the instrument of a terrorist attack, Cragin said. These teams give local officials that capability.

The units have two major pieces of equipment: a mobile analytical lab and a mobile communications facility. The first allows the teams to identify chemical and biological agents in the field. The second allows the team to coordinate communications among the first responders and all other areas.

"If they need information from a medical laboratory, they can connect from the van, Cragin said. The teams communications capability also allows all local, state and federal authorities to speak to each other.

While the 27 teams will be based in 26 states -- California will have two teams-- local agreements will allow the teams to work across state lines. So, for example, the New York team could answer a call in Connecticut and the Illinois team could work in Wisconsin.

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