MINOT, N.D. — This week, members from the North Dakota National Guard’s (NDNG) 81st Civil Support Team (CST) from Bismarck N.D., participated in a three-day Nuclear Weapons Accident/Incident Exercise (NUWAIX) on the Minot Air Force Base. The exercise involved nearly 400 people and is completing operations today.
Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, said, “The Civil Support team is an important asset for responding to domestic emergencies and operations around the state. Practicing and training on response is the best way for the CST to remain a relevant and ready force for our community.”
The exercise began Monday, May 7, when the 81st CST received a phone call from Minot informing them of the exercise scenario they would be responding to, a tornado picked up a vehicle and hurled it into an airplane that had weapons on board. The team immediately responded to Minot.
The exercise involved several entities, including the Department of Energy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, The U.S. Air Force’s 5th Bomb Wing, U.S. Army North Command, and several others. Foreign dignitaries from the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands and Turkey, came to observe the exercise for training purposes to benefit their countries.
“We received the call and linked up with the Department of Energy,” said Lt. Col. Larry Shireley, the commander of the 81st CST. “Members of our team are augmenting their team.” Shireley said that the main role of the 81st CST during the exercise was to provide coordination and assistance to the other groups there. Their main task was to work with the Department of Energy Radiation Assistance Program (RAP) team to monitor the surrounding area and to take samples to determine whether there had been a radiation release.
In this situation, the 81st CST provided a valuable link between the NDNG, the U.S. Air Force and the responding federal agencies.
“Our mission in this exercise is to integrate with the Department of Energy. Our job is to assist them to determine whether radiation had been released and provide recommendations for the health and safety in the surrounding area,” said Capt. David Jablonsky.
“We have had extensive training in monitoring, identifying and determining radiation levels. We’ve also had the opportunity to train and work with the Department of Energy RAP team. This exercise provides us an additional opportunity to enhance those skills.”
Jablonsky said the 81st CST has responded to two 2 actual missile recovery missions in rural areas of North Dakota. The CST provided on-site communications support for the U.S. Air Force during these recovery missions.
Maj. Lila Teunissen, medical operations officer with the NDNG’s 81st CST, said one of the major benefits of exercises of this size is the increased visibility the Guard gains from entities they don’t normally work with. “Good relations between state and federal agencies are being built here.”
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,800 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. About 70 percent of all members serving today have joined since that time. Currently, nearly 400 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas while about 4,000 remain in the state for emergency response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that’s more than four times the national average.
High-resolution photos available on Flickr: "CST Exercise - Minot"