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NEWS | Oct. 28, 2018

Bloomington hosts evaluation for unique homeland defense unit

By Sgt. Stephen Gifford Joint Force Headquarters- Illinois National Guard

As dawn broke the Illinois National Guard’s 5th Civil Support Team (CST) responded to a simulated attack on Corn Crib Stadium. The exercise was a part of the CST’s external evaluation (EXEVAL) in Bloomington, Illinois, Sept. 25-27. 
Soldiers of the 5th CST entered the stadium to search for chemical agents used in the attack. After locating the sources of the attack, members of the 5th CST progressed through the attack scenario, advised the incident commander and created impact projections. The 5th CST then conducted a “man down” drill where the team simulated the failure of protective gear of a member inside the “hot zone” of contamination.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Pierce of Washington, Illinois, led the team that entered the stadium, and stressed the importance of training and evaluations such as the EXEVAL for the CST.
“It’s probably the biggest thing we do for our career, it’s really a good baseline on our knowledge, our sampling, what we actually do for our job,” said Pierce. “Going into it we don’t know what we’re going to find, what’s there or not there, so we just try to be thorough and cover all our bases.” 
Lt. Col. Jason Steinkamp of Springfield, Illinois, commander of the 5th CST, stressed the importance of continued evaluation and training.
“The EXEVAL is how the Army measures how our team does in achieving our mission for civil authorities,” said Steinkamp. “This evaluation measures the training we have done for the last 18 months, and lets us know we are on the right track to fully support our counterparts in a weapons of mass destruction scenario.”
Congress authorized and funded the first 10 CST teams in 1998 with the primary mission to support civil authorities by identifying chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents, assess their impact and advise civilian authorities. Today there are 57 Civil Support Teams, every state has at least one, and there is one international team in Germany. The CST is a unique unit, comprised of 22 members drawn from both the Army and Air National Guards, all of which serve full time in the Active Guard and Reserve (AGR). 
“I’m ecstatic about the way the Soldiers and Airmen performed today, and I feel we are performing as well as we have ever performed,” said Steinkamp. “We have a premiere CST team and I’m confident about our abilities to respond to any incident.”