NEWS | Feb. 7, 2017

Kentucky Guardsmen train in historic sanatorium

By Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — To become experts in their fields, Soldiers train in all types of conditions and places. Even if those places are haunted.

For members of the 41st Civil Support Team, a recent training exercise was business as usual, another opportunity to hone their skills. But it was no ordinary duty location.

The 41st carried out a hazardous materials training at the historical Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Feb. 7-8.

“This team has to train to go into places just like this,” said Maj. Joseph Whitt, commander of the 41st. “These are the types of places bad guys would hide something or work out of, and if it’s here or Rupp Arena, we are ready to go at a moment’s notice to get the job done.”

Although local law enforcement have used the building for training, this was a first for the Kentucky Guard. According to Staff Sgt. Eric Shackelford, the decontamination non-commissioned officer-in-charge with the 41st, the Kentucky landmark worked perfectly in the team’s favor for the mission.

“To meet the requirements of our training, Waverly Hills is the ideal location for us,” he said. “We need to train in low visibility, with limited communication, confined spaces, all in an unfamiliar place, we get all that here.”

The fact the 41st must also conduct night training missions only added to the allure of the historically haunted building. Team members mostly agreed that while the nighttime mission checked the block for low visibility, it also raised the eeriness of the sanatorium.

“That’s what we have to do, to train to go places others don’t want to,” said Whitt.

Team members were tasked with searching for and identifying a simulated biological threat in the five-story building. The mission of the CST is to assist, assess, identify and advise local agencies in collaboration to reduce the threat. Other team members played the roles of local agencies to ensure proper communications and execution of the training.

“This was certainly a unique assignment for us,” said Sgt. Aaron Brady. “But regardless of our surroundings, which were definitely pretty creepy, we have to focus on our job to remain ready for anything.”

Waverly Hills sits on a rise eight miles from downtown Louisville. The 180,000 square-feet building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. During its time as a sanatorium, thousands of people reportedly died there from disease, creating stories of spiritual activity. Legends have persisted at the site with it receiving the billing as one of the most haunted places in the country.

Tina Mattingly owns the property and operates a haunted house, tours and hosts paranormal explorations on the site. After being approached by the 41st, Mattingly said she understood the complex nature of the CST and the draw of the sanatorium. She said Waverly Hills was glad to welcome the Guardsmen and to provide the suitable environment for the training.

“We are a patriotic family, we support our country and our military. These guys need to train and we just want to support them in any way we can. This old building has had a rich and interesting history, and it has many uses still today.”

Shackelford said no ghosts were seen during the mission and the team hopes to use the property again for future training and unit evaluations.