Coast Guard Strike Team conducts training on post Print E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2014
Story by Lt. j.g. Gabriel Klaff
Special to GUIDON

Fifteen members of the Coast Guard’s Gulf Strike Team recently participated in hazardous material response training at the Lt. Terry Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Responder Training  Facility.

“The opportunities presented by the realistic training aids and scenarios at the (facility) are extremely beneficial to the members of our team,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Medlin, strike team member and event facilitator.”

The Gulf Strike Team is one of three deployable, specialized teams within the Coast Guard’s National Strike Force, which is comprised of the service’s subject matter experts for oil spill and hazardous material response, making realistic training scenarios like those at the Terry facility especially important.

“By training on actual damaged hazardous material containers and conducting entries into buildings with simulated chemical hazards inside, our members are able to practice their skills and remain prepared for these infrequent but dangerous emergency situations,” Medlin said.

These three Strike Teams partner with Fort Leonard Wood’s Incident Response Training Department annually to attend the Dismounted Reconnaissance course at the Terry Facility, which is the primary indoctrination course for the National Strike Force and provides each member with the requisite training to become a hazardous material technician.

Since 2009, IRTD has furthered this inter-service relationship by turning the week-long training exercise into an annual “Hazmat Week” for the Gulf Strike Team.

This training event spans five full days filled with competency drills, full-scale exercises, and classroom training designed to hone the skills of Strike Team responders for CBRN incident response.  

Although several hundred miles from their home base at the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama, the team travels with a full suite of CBRN response equipment  including a 48-foot Hazardous Material Response Trailer, 38-foot Surrey Command and Control Trailer, chemical detection instruments, and personal protective equipment ensembles for their responders.

Petty Officer 1st Class Chris Wilborn, Gulf Strike Team member, led the team through several of the exercises during held throughout the week and said conducting training like this far from their home base helps them to be more prepared.

“I was able to apply my training in a realistic environment, which is far from our home base. This stressed the importance of having the correct equipment on scene and the need for quickly adapting to an unfamiliar location,” Wilborn said. “(This) is often the case during our (real-world) emergency responses.”

These members are on call 24/7, staffing a 10-person deployable team capable of deploying members within two hours of notification.  

The Strike Team routinely assists Coast Guard Captains of the Port, Environmental Protection Agency On-Scene Coordinators, and other federal agencies with incidents of all kinds, including major oil spills, releases of industrial chemicals, and radiological material sites.  

With 35 active-duty members and 30 Reserve personnel, the Gulf Strike Team averages more than 150 responder days per month in support of customers across 13 states and many areas outside of the continental United States.

In addition to supporting numerous emergency responses across the southern part of the country, these members provide training to other Coast Guard units, maintain more than $15 million of response equipment, and advise Coast Guard planning committees as they prepare contingency plans and conduct preparatory exercises for pollution  incidents.  

During this Hazmat Week at Fort Leonard Wood, members of the Gulf Strike Team conducted several full-scale training events for scenarios involving everything from suspected terrorist laboratories to overturned rail cars containing large quantities of toxic chemicals.  

While veteran team members train newcomers, all 15 Coast Guardsmen challenged themselves in an unfamiliar environment, which is crucial for being ready to tackle any type of real-world chemical incident.  

As the infrastructure for transportation of chemicals across the United States expands and threat of terrorism remains ever prevalent in our world, this important cross-training opportunity ensures our service members receive top-tier training to protect our citizens.  

This intense week of training at Fort Leonard Wood will greatly assist the Gulf Strike Team in their mission to protect the navigable waterways of the United States and live up to their motto of “The World’s Best Responders: Any Time, Any Place, Any Hazard.”

(Editor’s note: Klaff is the Gulf Strike Team’s assistant operations officer.)
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 24 September 2014 )