Story courtesy of the Pennsylvania National Guard
BELTZVILLE STATE PARRK, Pa., (6/4/09) -- Nefarious employees, toxic chemicals and a polluted watershed complete with dead fish were all part of the Pennsylvania National Guard 3rd Civil Support Team’s exercise here in May.
The evaluated event at Beltzville Dam in northeastern Pa., validated the 22-person unit as mission ready.
“This is our report card for the secretary of defense to say that this civil support team is ready to do its job,” said Capt. Michael W. Goodwin, the unit's medical operations officer.
Working at the impoundment’s water control tower some 70-feet above the lake, CST specialists took samples from tainted barrels, identified chemicals and facilitated their removal.
Under a cloudless sky with mercury rising well into the 80s, the environment was tough for team members in full protective gear. Inside the level-A suits temperatures soared as clear masks clouded with perspiration.
“It’s like being in a sauna on steroids,” says Sgt. Phillip Pasquariello, survey team member. “Even though the back of the unit has a re-breather packed with ice, it melts very quickly,” Pasquariello adds.
He also said safety remains paramount and that they are in a “rigorous medical monitoring environment” with both a physician’s assistant and a medic on the team monitoring them closely.
Working diligently and methodically at the control tower site, the team took samples and prepared to return to the mobile lab for further identification.
“For this exercise we have very strict time elements we must adhere to,” said Goodwin. "After arriving on site we have one-and-a-half-hours to be moving into the hot zone.”
The team easily made this deadline and all others as Army North evaluators and emergency management observers watched intently in this rural state park far from large population centers.
“This is a great setting for an exercise and in the real world type this type of rural setting is where we can really make a difference,” said Lt. Col. Tim Gwinn, the CST commander.
He added that many of the larger cities have adequate resources to respond to an attack, but the smaller cities and communities “just don’t have the resources.”
The exercise which started with a 4:00 a.m., wakeup ended some 20 hours later with the CST receiving high marks for its efforts.
“The team did a tremendous job, and the entire Pennsylvania National Guard can be proud of the effort displayed here today,” Gwinn said.