Guard Teams Help With Crises in Massachusetts, Texas
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va., Apr. 18, 2013 Texas and Massachusetts National Guard members are continuing to provide support to civil and local authorities in the wake of explosions in Boston and in West, Texas, many of them bringing a specialized skill set to the efforts.
This morning, more than 20 members of the Texas Army National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team were monitoring air quality for hazardous emissions at the site of a still-burning fertilizer plant.
Additional search and extraction, and command and control capabilities from the Texas National Guard Homeland Response Force remain on alert and ready to assist if needed, officials said.
Up to 15 people are feared dead, with at least 160 injured, according to Texas officials.
National Guard civil support teams work with local authorities and provide additional support during times of emergency or the suspected use of weapons of mass destruction. The teams can identify chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents and substances, assess current and projected consequences and advise on response measures.
Members of the Texas Guard's 6th Civil Support Team and the Massachusetts Guard's 1st Civil Support Team are providing technical expertise for authorities.
The Massachusetts team was on duty during the April 15 running of the Boston Marathon, augmented by similar Guard teams from New York and Rhode Island.
In addition, the Mississippi National Guard's 47th Civil Support Team aided state, local and federal officials in identifying potentially poisonous substances mailed to the U.S. Senate and the White House.
"Initially, after a catastrophic incident, local and state responders will be the first ones on the ground," said Army Capt. Kenneth Murray, an observer, controller and trainer with the West Virginia National Guard’s Joint Interagency Training and Education Center. "Then, the civil support teams will assess the situation and the Homeland Response Force will be the first federalized unit that's going to be on the ground to provide decontamination for the sick and injured and relief for the first responders."
For the incident commander on the ground, the civil support team provides an additional resource in an already chaotic situation.
"An attack using a weapon of mass destruction would further complicate the emergency response efforts and would create a tremendous burden on a wide variety of local, state and federal recourses," said Ray Toves, director of the civil support team training and readiness division with the 196th Infantry Brigade, adding that when the team arrives on the scene, it works for the local incident commander and provides a unique capability to analyze suspected hazardous agents.
In Boston, more than 850 National Guard members were on duty to assist local authorities with logistics, security and other operations. In addition to the civil support team members, the team also included members of the Massachusetts Army National Guard's 387th Ordnance Company and the 267th Combat Communications Squadron from the Massachusetts Air National Guard. The 267th CCS brings joint incident site communications capability, which allows voice, radio and data communication across multiple systems used by first responders.
"The National Guard can be relied upon for our diverse emergency response and rapid deployment capabilities during times of need in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." said Air Force Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, the Massachusetts adjutant general.