Nashville, TN – Practice makes perfect. In the military, practice can happen when you least expect it. That is exactly what happened when the Tennessee National Guard’s 45th Civil Support Team recently took part in their Training Proficiency Evaluation in late July.
The evaluation, administered by U.S. Army North, is a congressionally mandated, credited examination to validate the readiness of civil support teams every 18 months. Evaluations are short notice scenarios, intended to mimic real-world threats and disasters.
“The unit commander gets a phone call and we have a limited amount of time to report, get everyone together, get a briefing, and head out the door to the site of the incident,” said Master Sgt. Keith Boyd, a 20-year veteran of the 45th.
U.S. Army North members headquartered in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, traveled to Nashville to administer the evaluation.
“These scenarios we’ve set up are a challenge for these units,” said Kenneth Whited, a member of the U.S. Army North training staff. “We present realistic challenges that test their decision-making, knowledge, and overall readiness as an organization.”
The 45th Civil Support Team is a 22 person team comprised of both Army and Air personnel from the Tennessee National Guard. They work primarily with county emergency management agencies, local fire and police departments, and the Department of Homeland Security.
The team’s first mission took place at a local middle school where U.S. Army North evaluators set up a simulated laboratory for the 45th to find. Members of the CST donned protective gear, entered the facility, located the incident area, and began to assess the situation. After assessment, the team re-entered the facility to take samples and run tests to identify the substances found in the faux laboratory.
The second mission was a combination of radiation and an explosive device found at a sports arena. Members of the 45th used specialized gear and equipment to locate the safety hazards. They then disposed of them in coordination with local law enforcement and prevented further incident.
“Our team typically trains year round, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, we are just now getting back into our regular schedule,” said Boyd. “The team did very well this week, and we are looking forward to continual improvement.”
Despite the difficulty of the evaluations, these training scenarios are critical to ensure a constant state of readiness.
“If you can do this, and this is the hardest thing we do, we can do anything in the real world,” said Boyd.