Real world biological hazard doesn’t quell ‘Quenching Steel’ exercise, 92nd Civil Support Team
CARSON CITY — Undeterred by nation’s prevailing real-world biological hazard of coronavirus, the Nevada National Guard’s 92nd Civil Support Team was declared fully trained and validated by U.S. Army North evaluators at the conclusion of the “Quenching Steel” exercise July 23 here in the Silver State’s capital. The results of the evaluation were released July 24.
The 92nd was just the second team evaluated by U.S. Army North since Department of Defense travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were eased in June. Montana’s 83rd Civil Support Team was evaluated by U.S. Army North in early July and it was also deemed fully trained.
The evaluation of the 92nd was the culminating event of the three-day Quenching Steel exercise that also included mock scenarios including the Central Lyon County Sheriff’s Office and the Quad County Hazardous Material Response Team. U.S. Army North and Carson City and Lyon counties’ Emergency Management Offices teamed to sponsor the exercise.
The Carson City-based 92nd Civil Support Team includes 18 Soldiers and four Airmen trained to rapidly deploy to contingencies and assist first responders with the identification and nature of unknown chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials. There are 57 full-time National Guard civil support teams across the nation; the Nevada Guard’s 92nd CST was established in 2004.
U.S. Army North evaluators based out of Fort Sam Houston, Texas, assess the proficiency of each civil support team every 18 months. The 92nd lost about six weeks of training in March and April in advance of its evaluation due to COVID-19. The team reassembled and began its preparation for Quenching Steel less than two months ago on June 1.
U.S. Army North operations evaluator Todd Chance said the 92nd CST looked sharp despite its loss of training days.
“The governor and the state’s citizens have a valuable asset they can turn to when needed in the form of the 92nd Civil Support Team,” Chance said. “The unit is definitely qualified and capable. They are ready to respond and assist any of the state’s first responders.”
Chance said U.S. Army North evaluators can deem a civil support team either trained, practiced or untrained. An evaluation of practiced or untrained results in a return trip from U.S. Army North for a unit re-evaluation within a few months.
The ultimate scenario of Quenching Steel featured the Quad County Hazardous material Response Team calling upon the 92nd Civil Support Team after the Quad County team discovered a clandestine lab and it requested the CST identify, mitigate and collect a sample of unknown materials. The site of the mock lab was the now-vacated Silver Springs Women’s Prison in Silver Springs about 20 miles east of Carson City.
After being called to the scene by the Quad County team at 10 a.m., the 92nd’s Soldiers and Airmen – wearing their requisite COVID-19 masks in 100 degree weather – quickly responded to the mock scenario. After a few short briefings, 92nd Sgts. Ian Fritzche and Rjhun Rimon were inside investigating the fake lab and collecting evidence by 1 p.m.
Sixteen first-responders from other Quad County agencies were also voluntarily at the scenario to add to the exercise’s realistic interagency coordination and communication.
“What really impressed the evaluators was the fact so many local first responders voluntarily chose to participate and train with the 92nd,” Chance said. “The turn-out was phenomenal. It shows the local first responders really value the unit and will be quick to turn to the 92nd in future haz-mat (hazardous materials) situations.”
Quenching Steel began July 21 near the Capitol in Carson City with a similar mock scenario including the discovery of a clandestine lab. The July 21 scenario served as the 92nd’s final training session before it was evaluated July 23.
92nd commander Lt. Col. John Brownell was ecstatic with the evaluation results. After three years in charge of the team, it was likely his final evaluation as commander.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the team,” Brownell said. “We lost 45 days of training due to the pandemic, but the team knocked it out of the park. It was amazing.”
First Sgt. John Fansler said the team’s effort was among the best he’d seen during his long association with the CST.
“I’ve been with the team for more than 16 years and that’s one of the top evaluations we’ve received,” Fansler said. “We crushed it despite only six weeks to prepare.”