A 5 a.m. commute in a 50,000 pound Army helicopter isn't a normal
morning commute for most people, but for the National Guard members
of the 2nd Civil Support Team—military personnel specially trained
to find chemical, biological, and radiological weapons—it's just
another day in the office.
Twelve members of the New York
team linked up with a New York Army National Guard CH-47 flown by
Soldiers of Company B, 3rd Battalion 126th Aviation from Rochester,
N.Y., for a ride to work on July 27, 2016. The team would
participate in an emergency response exercise in nearby Vermont.
New York Army National Guard CH-47 F model left the Army
Aviation Support Facility in Rochester, N.Y. for Stratton Air
National Guard Base in Schenectady, N.Y. on July 27, 2016, aviators
and crew members from Detachment 1, Company B, 3rd Battalion 126th
Aviation Regiment picked up service members from the New York
National Guard's 2nd Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team
(CST) and landed at the Burlington Air National Guard Base in
Vermont. The Battalion is part of the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Christopher Giebel)
The combined training satisfied an annual requirement for the
members of the Civil Support Team, known as a CST, to practice
deployment via helicopter. The Rochester aviators, part of the 42nd
Combat Aviation Brigade, also practiced one of their routine aircrew
missions: deploying the CST from Stratton Air National Guard Base in
"It was a great opportunity for us to provide the 2nd
Civil Support Team with unique CH-47F aviation assets,” said Maj.
Eric Fritz, a Webster, N.Y. resident and one of the CH-47 pilots for
the flight. “This also gave us an opportunity to develop a team
relationship and understanding of how we can assist in their
The CST was participating in a Vigilant Guard
disaster response exercise hosted by the Vermont National Guard. The
national-level exercise in Burlington required New York's 2nd CST to
provide support to fellow CST teams from Maine and Vermont. The
exercise, involving both National Guard forces and Vermont first
responders, simulated scenarios requiring urban search and rescue,
cyber terror defense, a viral outbreak and bio-chemical terrorism.
The scenario required the New Yorkers to check for the
presence of contaminants at the Burlington Air National Guard Base
as other CST elements focused on other events.
After the hour
flight, the team arrived in Burlington with the sunrise. After
initial coordination with an incident commander, two CST members
suited up in their hazardous material (HAZMAT) protective suits
while other Soldiers and Airmen provided decontamination and medical
The CST trains to assist first responders with
identifying agents and substances, assessing current and projected
consequences and advising civilian incident commanders on response
By late morning, the team had established a
decontamination site and a two person team went inside a vacant
building to search for suspected hazardous materials, working
together to clear each room inside the building.
trains constantly and we have to be prepared for many different
scenarios, explained Army National Guard Maj. Amy Benedetto, deputy
team commander and Schenectady, N.Y. resident. “The strong bond and
trust our team has towards one another allows us to accomplish our
missions successfully,” she said.
“I have been a part of the
CST for over nine years and it is so important for us to be experts
at our jobs for when we go down range,” said Air National Guard
Master Sgt. Brian Gifford, resident of Altamont.
the heat of the summer day in July, the temperature inside the CST
HAZMAT suits reached more than one hundred degrees by the time the
team cleared all the rooms.
“If the Soldiers are not 100
percent healthy, not only is their health in jeopardy but also the
mission,” said Air National Guard Maj. Philip Smith, physician
assistant for the CST and resident of East Nassau, N.Y. “Each
Soldier will get a physical to monitor their vitals, these Soldiers
must be in great health to wear over forty pound chemical suits.”
“Every team has a graded evaluation we must participate in
every 18 months, so it pushes us to train hard all year long and
take every mission seriously,” Smith said.
Less than six
hours from their arrival, the team provided an all-clear assessment
to the incident commander, completing their task and successfully
redeploying back to Scotia in the early afternoon.
CST is one of two Civil Support Teams in the New York National
Guard. New York also maintains the 24th CST, based at Fort Hamilton,
Brooklyn, and focuses its operations in the New York City
metropolitan area. The two teams, manned by full-time National Guard
members, are prepared to deploy throughout New York or the northeast
By NY National Guard, Capt. Jean Marie Kratzer
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