Soldiers, Airmen neutralize WMD lab at abandoned Navy warehouse
By Staff Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Guard Times Staff
SCOTIA, N.Y. – It was raining when a line of government vehicles quietly rolled into a pull-off outside a depot fence line here one recent December morning.
After minutes of silence, black-uniformed personnel stepped out with stern glances amidst sporadic radio noise and converged. They seemed in heavy discussion, and to the passerby — attentive enough to notice them — their suspect stance might have raised an eyebrow, or two.
The Weapons of Mass Destruction 2nd Civil Support Team conducted a large-scale exercise at the Scotia Naval Depot Dec. 1 as part of their regular readiness training.
The exercise started on the report that a break-in investigation of an abandoned warehouse uncovered possible WMD activities. An initial joint response team of 13 Soldiers and three Airmen were dispatched.
The Soldiers and Airmen are tenants at the Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia.
“This is our full-time job,” said Maj. Matthew Cooper, 2nd Civil Support Team commander. He added that the team conducts large-scale exercises at least once a quarter. Smaller-scale exercises are held two to three times a week, he said.
With the steady rain, the exercise seemed a soggy puzzle awaiting a solution. Inside the warehouse was a maze of abandoned hallways connecting lightless rooms where instructors previously set up booby traps and mock chemical agent equipment within a damp air of decay. Making conditions worse, water dripped through a rain-soaked ceiling, mucking up potential evidence before landing in puddles on a cracked linoleum floor.
Major Cooper explained that the team changes the location of each exercise.
“It’s hard to use the same facilitates over and over,” said the major. “It’s human nature to predetermine the outcome based on historical knowledge of a structure or area.”
On a table inside a rear entrance, a spill of tan powder haphazardly formed a message for trespassers, and dirty windows allowed enough light to read “JIHAD” handwritten in the dust.
The 2nd Civil Support Team cut the exercise into small maneuvers, and the Department of Defense reports that teams’ common missions are assessing sites and advising civilian responders on what actions to take. If called upon, teams will assist requests for state and federal assets but, most importantly, the concern is saving lives and preventing human suffering and property damage.
Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams undergo military as well as emergency responder training; team members need to acquire approximately 600 hours of initial training aside from their regular military occupations.
The 2nd Civil Support Team is among the first 10 teams authorized in 1999 to achieve Department of Defense certification. To date, the DoD reports 32 Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams approved nationwide.