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NEWS | March 17, 2023

Kentucky’s Civil Response Team Hosts Multi-agency Exercise

By Sgt. 1st. Class Benjamin Crane, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

If there ever was an incident at the world-famous Churchill Downs Racetrack requiring the specially trained chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) unit of the National Guard, thanks to training done this week, they’d be ready.
Around 20 Soldiers and Airmen from the 75th Troop Command’s 41st Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, along with Service Members from seven other National Guard CST's, Louisville Metro Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, conducted the one-day exercise in preparation for the Kentucky Derby festivities March 14.
“This is a preparatory field training exercise to get our team, the support personnel from other CST’s, LMPD and the FBI ready for the derby festival,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Scott Terrill, 41st CST site safety officer and exercise coordinator. “Our local partners request assistance from the WMD-CST program in order to assist with public safety and emergency planning. This is considered a pre-planned response for our team where we typically start the preparation around eight months prior to the beginning of the KY Derby Festival. One of our main functions is to preemptively monitor Churchill Downs and the surrounding area with these local partners for potential CBRN/WMD threats.”
Those relationships with partners like the LMPD are essential for a smooth operation during high profile events that they work.
“The collaboration that we get from the National Guard is essential for the public's safety here at Churchill Downs,” said Dustin Clem, a 7-year veteran of the LMPD’s hazards incident response team. “We wouldn't be able to really effectively do some of the WMD mission without the CST. They're an integral part of our operations and they complement our team very well.”
According to Terrill, they have been conducting exercises like this one for the last four years but this one is the largest and most complex to date.
“This is the first year that we've brought in our support personnel for the field training exercise,” said Terrill. “All the people who are on ground with us today from the out-of-state CST’s will be the same people working with us in May for the actual Derby festival. The design of this exercise has grown each year, with this year’s being not just a challenge for us tactically, but also from a scene management perspective."
One of the big goals of the exercise is to get everyone familiar with whom they will be working with when the Derby Festival kicks off and there are over 100 thousand people milling around the venue.
“The last thing you want to do is show up to a scene like this and not know those state, local, and federal agency leads,” said Terrill. “You don't want the confusion of not knowing who to talk to, where they'll be located, or what type of capabilities the CST can and can't provide to them. We've made it a priority to build these relationships. If LMPD has a situation where they are dealing with an unknown hazard, and they aren't sure if they have the right equipment to identify it, they need to know that we're available, that we can provide this type of support 24/7, and how to contact us."
Exercise scenarios included setting up a decontamination station near one of the VIP gates meant for high profile dignitaries who may be likely targets for attacks. Soldiers like Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Shackelford, communications team chief and acting as the VIP DECON Noncommissioned Officer-In-Charge for the exercise, helped man one of those stations and said it was valuable training to be able to actually get together like this in a low pressure environment and work in the same place you will be doing so on the day of the Derby as well and seeing those whom he will be working with face-to-face.
“The main benefit (of this exercise) is that we work with them in a real-world setting,” said Shackelford. “The fact that we're training with them right now and setting up these SOPs will be a big help when it comes time that we are needed.”
Overall, the day ended with the hundred or so individuals spending a lot of time getting face time with each other and learning valuable lessons from each other.
“It was a great day of training,” said Army Lt. Col. Joe Fontanez, commander of the 41st CST. “This exercise enhanced the relationships between our CST personnel, out of state CST Soldiers and Airmen, and our local and federal agencies. The lessons we learned today will enhance our preparedness for the Kentucky Derby Festival and ensure public safety at Churchill Downs.”
The commander also wanted to thank the teams from the states who came out for their support. Those units are the 12th CST from the New Hampshire National Guard; Oklahoma National Guard's 63rd CST, Idaho National Guard's 101st CST, the 92nd CST, Nevada National Guard; 42nd CST, North Carolina National Guard; 81st CST, North Dakota National Guard and the 54th CST, Wisconsin National Guard.

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