COVENTRY, R.I.—The 13th Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Civil Support Team (CST), based in Coventry, is ready for rapid deployment to support local, state, and federal authorities in responding to any attack involving chemical, biological, radiological, or explosive munitions.
The 22-member, full-time National Guard unit earned national certification after nearly three years of training.
“The team worked very hard to develop the skills to be 100 percent proficient to respond to a WMD incident,” said Rhode Island Adjutant General Lieutenant Colonel Robert T. Bray. “If an incident were to take place, the local emergency responders would conduct an initial assessment [and] then could make a direct request for assistance from our Civil Support unit.”
Certification of the 13th WMD CST makes it one of the 40 teams around the country that has received national certification since the program was launched eight years ago. The team is federally funded through the National Guard Bureau. The first year is expected to cost about $7 million to establish a team and buy equipment. That estimate does not including training costs or salaries for the full-time Guardsmen.
“Most of the team’s soldiers, men and women, are from Rhode Island, which helps,” said Lieutenant Colonel Paul R. Peltier, the unit’s commander. “They know the area and are familiar with the community. Their families live here, so you get the extra dedication.”
The initial priorities of the team members are to educate themselves through research on various chemical and biological agents such as anthrax—the goal is not only to understand what those agents are but also how to recognize them when they are described by a local authority. The team also plans to conduct a series of exercises with local emergency responders, such as firefighters and police officers.