Michigan National Guard
Story by Senior Airman Tristan Viglianco
MT. PLEASANT, Mich.-- Responding to emergencies and crises is what the Michigan National Guard (MING) is known for. In the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) incident, the MING’s 51st Civil Support Team (CST) and their capabilities would play a vital role in resolving the situation.
“We are here as a HAZMAT response unit,” said U.S. Army Capt. Ryan Kimball, MING 51st CST operations officer. “In the event of likely or suspected weapons of mass destruction (WMD), our mission is to identify, assess, assist, and advise any agencies across the state who request us.”
In order to keep their skills sharp, the 51st CST regularly exercises with various law enforcement agencies across the state. Northern Exposure 21, which occurred March 15-18, served as an opportunity for the unit to refine its response capabilities.
“Relationships are critical for us,” said Kimball. “Exercises like today’s gives us an opportunity to establish face-to-face relationships in case something ever does happen.”
The exercise took place in Isabella and Kent counties, which allowed the 51st CST to coordinate first responders from both counties and the Michigan State Police.
“Northern Exposure is important because from our local perspective, we don’t get many opportunities to integrate with the military, said McCarther Griffis, Isabella County emergency management director. “The CST is an amazing asset and the exercise allows us to get boots on the ground and run through real scenarios. It allows us to know what our limitations are and see what resources we have to support us.”
Northern Exposure 21 was integrated with another exercise known as Rising Waters 2021. This year's scenario was catastrophic flooding leading to chemical contamination, which was followed by a possible WMD situation.
The Mt. Pleasant Fire Department (MPFD) initially responded to the scene and after determining it was beyond their capabilities and resources, requested further assistance.
“After locating a hazard that was outside our scope of practice, we called [the CST],” said Doug Lobsinger, MPFD assistant chief. “We look at them as a huge resource. When something is outside our capabilities, we are able to call them to help us figure it out.”
During real-world situations, the 51st CST provides a variety of unique capabilities for responding to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats to first responders.
“We are all one hundred percent HAZMAT qualified,” said Campbell. “Our survey section is the subject matter experts on HAZMAT. They have a wealth of knowledge and training. We also have the ability to fill equipment gaps.”
After the chemical response scenario, a Kent county exercise occurred later in the week. That event was smaller and featured equipment review and instruction with Kent County authorities at the Wyoming Armory. Northern Exposure 21 served as a tool for all participants to stay connected, trained and ultimately prepared to respond.