Wyo. National Guard, local agencies test response to terror attackThe exercise centered on a scenario where a suspicious package is found by Laramie County Fair staff in the Archer Complex
By Trevor Brown
The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Tuesday's "man down" exercise went off without a hitch.
Two members of the Wyoming National Guard's 84th Civil Support Team carried their simulated-injured teammate — who weighed about 300 pounds in his bulky hazmat suit — across the county-owned Archer Complex to a grassy field where the command unit was set up.
After completing the decontamination process and escaping the hazmat suit that was cut off, the soldier was finally taken into the care of the waiting medical team to treat any injuries he might have suffered.
The training exercise was part of a multi-agency drill to test and practice the first-responders' ability to react to a potential terrorist attack.
"This is to help us know what the hazards are, keep our teams sharp and work on our leadership abilities," said Rob Cleveland, director of the Cheyenne/Laramie County Emergency Management Agency. "It is important because we have to be able to respond to any type of situation."
About 50 members of the Wyoming National Guard's 84th Civil Support Team, Cheyenne/Laramie County Emergency Management Agency, Laramie County Fire District 1 and other groups participated in the drill.
The exercise centered on a scenario where a suspicious package is found by Laramie County Fair staff in the Archer Complex. Members of the Guard unit, with support from the local first-responders, were tasked to identify the potential chemical or biohazard device and clear it of any dangers.
Maj. Holly M. Shenefelt, deputy commander of the 84th Civil Support Team, said these types of exercises are common for the unit.
She said Tuesday's full-scale exercise was one of the largest in which the group participated in recent months. However, Shenefelt said the team conducts smaller exercises year-round and occasionally participates in large national drills.
The Cheyenne-based team is the Wyoming National Guard's premier first-responder unit that specializes in dealing with weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical, biological and nuclear devices.
"We are a 24/7/365 unit," Shenefelt said. "We are a Guard unit, but we work full time."
Shenefelt said extensive training is required to be part of the 22-person team.
She said the unit's new nuclear expert was required to take 2,060 hours worth of training before joining the team. Other members need a minimum of 900 training hours before they start, Shenefelt said.
Cleveland said just because Wyoming isn't typically thought of as terrorist target as much as major cities like New York or Washington, D.C., it is still critical for the local first-responders to be vigilant and well trained.
"It's not just foreign terrorists we have to be concerned about," he said. "It could be domestic terrorism. or a lab accident spilling chemicals. The chances of something happening here are as good as anywhere else, so we have to prepare for that."
Cleveland said the agencies will conduct a debriefing session — a "hotwash" in military terms — afterward to evaluate the drill.
"We will look at what went good and what went bad," he said. "And then we will learn from it by looking at new procedures or focusing on proper protocol."
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