Knee deep in muddy water

Written by  //  April 18, 2012  //  Feature Stories, News

By Sgt. Christopher Vann

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. (April 18, 2012) — Having the chance to work hand in hand with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Aeronautics Space Administration, the United States Coast Guard and a Special Weapons And Tactics team is a rare opportunity. For the Florida National Guard’s 48th Weapons of Mass Destruction – Civil Support Team, it was a chance to shine with some of the best and brightest, while honing their skills and gaining valuable experience that will last for years to come.

SFC Chris Barton (right) discusses details of the last entry mission with three members of the FBI on board NASA's ship Liberty Star during Operation Muddy Water. Photo by Capt. Robert Frierson, 48th CST

The Florida National Guard’s 48th CST, based in Clearwater, Fla., participated in Operation Muddy Water, a multi-agency response exercise in Port Canaveral, Fla., April 17, 2012.

The purpose of Operation Muddy Water is to familiarize the multiple agencies with each other’s capabilities and to foster cooperation, so as to ensure response and preparedness should a Weapons of Mass Destruction event occur.

The 48th CST is composed of full-time Soldiers and Airmen, and is designed to assist emergency first-responders during incidents involving chemical, biological or radiological threats. The 48th CST is one of two civil support teams in Florida and the 57th in the nation.

During the operation, SWAT teams aboard the NASA booster rocket recovery vessel Liberty Star cleared rooms of any and all threats before two teams, comprised of the FBI and 48th CST, were tasked with finding specimen samples and testing them to determine chemical, biological and radiological agents. The team then took samples and tried to determine which toxins were present.

According to 48th CST commander, Lt. Col. Joseph DeFee, the April 17 exercise gave the troops real-world experience and hands-on training, while evaluating response capabilities. The 48th CST received certification as a fully mission capable civil support team, last November after rigorous training to meet the Department of Defense’s certification standards.

“This is the climax of a yearlong training, it includes relations building and helps identify gaps,” said DeFee.

Staff Sgt. Erik Partridge (left) and Sgt. Ketner Jackson (right) discuss a few mission details together just before they enter the hazard exclusion area of the ship during their sampling mission on board NASA's ship Liberty Star during Operation Muddy Water. Photo by Capt. Robert Frierson, 48th CST

The event was hosted by the FBI and lead by Russell Hayes, a Supervisory Senior Resident Agent. Hayes says that it helps the various agencies learn their counterpart’s techniques and logistics for planning.

“This multi-agency training is crucial, it helps us practice procedures and communication,” Hayes said.

Maj. George Horseley, a physician assistant with the 48th CST, feels that this training will help develop the lower enlisted to become leaders and subject matter experts.

“This helps us to know our strengths and limits,” said Horseley. “It better prepares us to support missions by developing tactics, techniques and procedures.”

The 48th CST conducts a minimum of two exercises each quarter, including situations dealing with hazardous materials.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be involved in this FBI hosted training,” said DeFee. “It was very impressive to see.”