By Warrant Officer Thea James, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
PINEVILLE, La. – The Louisiana National Guard’s (LANG) 62nd Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team (CST) and Iowa National Guard’s 71st CST conducted a joint situational training exercise (STX) at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Jan 11.
“To do something like this with the 71st benefits both teams. It’s very important to see how other teams work, that way if we do get a call, we are as efficient as possible and we are not a hindrance to the other team,” said Capt. John M. Jennings of the 62nd Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team, from Gonzales.
During the STX, the CSTs conducted a pre-event sweep in the convention center for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive hazards in conjunction with local and federal partners. Several simulated devices were found during the sweep, which prompted a response from the CST to identify and mitigate the hazards in order to protect the public and stop an attack. This training consisted of an 18-hour operational period.
“The training that we go through is the best of the best. Throughout the year, the 62nd CST reaches out to local agencies and organizations,” Jennings said. “We make sure to reach out just to make sure they know we exist and what capabilities we bring to the table. They know they can reach back and call us at any time.”
There are approximately 10 STXs conducted each year. These training events require coordination between the LANG, convention centers and multiple organizations. Organizations that participate in the training include the FBI and local law enforcement agencies.
“It’ll take weeks to prepare and there’s a lot of coordination between the units,” said Maj. Matt K. Digby, Ponchatoula native and commander of the 62nd CST. “The 71st CST came down weeks ago to conduct a recon of the convention center.
The 62nd CST is one of 57 CSTs in the country and is based out of Gillis W. Long in Carville. The 62nd consists of 22 active guard reserve Army and Air Guardsmen specializing in 15 military occupational studies.
“I like the people aspect of my job. The individuals in my section make my life really easy because they know their job and their equipment,” said Jennings.
The CST focuses on Defense Support to Civil Authorities response, and is on call 24/7. The CST responds at the request of a municipality to assess, advise, assist and identify hazards across the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear spectrum. The 62nd integrates with local, state and federal agencies to conduct sweeps prior to large-scale events such as LSU games, Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras celebrations and is always ready to protect what matters.