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Intel

CSTs Join Forces for Terrorism Exercise

Teams from Florida and the Virgin Islands work hand in hand with the FBI during Operation Guardian Spear
A member of the 23rd Civil Support Team tests an unknown liquid collected during a terrorist threat exercise Dec. 3 that measured how CSTs from the Virgin Islands and Florida worked together with the FBI to protect citizens. Photo by SGT Juanita Philip
A member of the 23rd Civil Support Team tests an unknown liquid collected during a terrorist threat exercise Dec. 3 that measured how CSTs from the Virgin Islands and Florida worked together with the FBI to protect citizens. Photo by SGT Juanita Philip

ST. CROIX, VI Unknown chemicals have been released at various points around the territory; many residents in the communities are affected. Strike/Survey teams from the 23rd Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team (CST), Virgin Islands National Guard, along with Florida's 48th CST and an FBI support team have been activated to investigate the incidents.

That was the scenario for Operation Guardian Spear, an interoperability exercise that tested how both CSTs and the FBI team worked together to protect the citizens of the Virgin Islands throughout the first week of December. "This is a 36-hour-straight exercise that tests the response by federal, state and local resources in the event of an identified incident," says First Lieutenant Marcus Sydney, 23rd CST operations officer. 

The survey teams were deployed to collect samples from various points on St. Croix, Hovensa [St. Croix Refinery], Buck Island, the 210th Regional Training Institute and the Henry Rohlsen Airport, which were determined to be viruses, manufactured drugs and biological weapons.

"Prior to this, the FBI just came in as the incident commander; this time they're building all the labs, they're helping write the exercise, they're engaging us with all the support," says Sergeant First Class Anibal Bermudez, first sergeant of the 23rd CST. "They've brought the fake IEDs, bombs and props. They've brought a lot of realism to the exercise.

"On the FBI side, they test the ability to change over coordinators during the cycle," Bermudez says. According to Bermudez, to assist the CSTs, the FBI brought in a bomb technician as they would in the real world.

While the unit conducts evaluations continuously throughout the year in order to maintain competency, this exercise was an assessment on interagency communications and interoperability capacity. "We're more testing how we work with each other," Sydney says. "It's not an evaluation per se, just an assessment of how we work together."

"This is the first time it's being done on such a scale with two CSTs working with the HMRU [the FBI's Hazardous Materials Response Unit] personnel from the lab and our WMD coordinators, both on island and Sector III, Florida," he says. "We're basically going to take our notes to utilize on future real-world events. How could we improve on our response? How could we improve on our interoperability? From there, we could come up with a plan on how we could assist each other when the flag goes up."

CSTs were established to deploy rapidly to assist a local incident commander in determining the nature and extent of an attack or incident, provide expert technical advice on WMD response operations, and help identify and support the arrival of follow-on state and federal military response assets. They are joint units and, as such, can consist of both Army National Guard and Air National Guard personnel.

The mission of CSTs is to support local and state authorities at domestic WMD/nuclear, biological and chemical incident sites by identifying agents and substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with requests for additional military support.