SCRANTON, Pa. -- Seeing military personnel in blue chemical suits is not something you see every day in Scranton. The Pennsylvania National Guard Civil Support Team based out of Fort Indiantown Gap was at Steamtown National Historic Site training in case of a weapon of mass destruction.
"These exercises are extremely important to be conducted not only for the training of our soldiers who are in the civil support teams, but also to ensure the local communities of our availability and our technical prowess to be able to conduct such exercises,” Gen. David Wood of the Pennsylvania National Guard said.
The Department of Defense sends evaluators to make sure every aspect is done correctly. The unit supports local, state, or federal authorities in the event of an actual or suspected terrorist incident.
"Being able to go into a house that may have been abandoned that just has a suspicious box of chemicals may be something that our team needs to do to because the local authorities just don't have the ability to do that,” Wood said.
An important tool that the unit uses is this mobile laboratory. It is equipped with scientific devices that can analyze samples right on the scene to take a course of action quicker.
"If it's not there, we won't get a positive, but we can also tell an incident commander you don't have anthrax, you don't have this one or that one. So sometimes telling the incident commander what you don't have is as important and telling them what you do have,” Maj. Jacob Derivan of the Pennsylvania National Guard said.
The training is planned from beginning to end, but just like in real life, anything can change at a moment's notice.
A surprise incident forced the soldiers to think on their feet and adjust their focus.
The Civil Support Team does this training, so it is always prepared and can be ready to go within 90 minutes.