CHEYENNE – “It was a fantastic day,” exclaimed 84th Civil Support Team commander Lt. Col. Holly Shenefelt following her unit’s response and mission execution at three separate notional crime scenes.
The training events were spread throughout Laramie County within a short time frame, forcing the 18-member unit to break into small strike teams to assist civil authorities in the identification and mitigation of potentially hazardous materials.
The first scenario of the morning, dubbed “Operation Halloween Hustle,” involved a foreign exchange student, who according to his host family, had spent the entire weekend in the garage at their rural north Cheyenne home. When they left the house Monday morning, they found the young man dead, in the yard.
Law enforcement called the CST because in the garage they found an unknown white powder, as well as envelopes addressed to several public figures.
CST Survey Team members donned their orange and black protective suits, complete with respirators, and entered the garage to gather and test samples of the substance.
“We tested the powder on four different pieces of equipment, and collected samples to test at our analytical lab as well as the state’s lab,” said Army National Guard Officer Candidate Wyatt Winget, who is on the survey team.
As that strike team was wrapping up, another was responding to the Laramie County Emergency Management complex where another unknown white powder was found during a notional classroom presentation there. Law enforcement ordered the facility quarantined and called the CST to assist with its unique skill set, supporting first responders by assessing hazards that could be chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear.
Survey Team Chief staff sgt. Justin Pierce led the team at the EMC, and collected the standard four samples of the unknown white powder. He noted the importance of documenting the entire procedure.
“We take pictures of the whole process,” Pierce said. “If someone says ‘there wasn’t any white powder there,’ we say, ‘here are the pictures.’”
For the third training event, a CST strike team was called in to assist law enforcement in recovering radiological material stolen from a local manufacturer of the material. The team identified and recovered the substance from a vehicle.
“We returned it to its rightful owner,” Shenefelt said following the exercise. “This was a key event today and shows we can adapt with small or large teams in response to first responders.”
“We do one or two exercises a month to maintain our proficiencies,” said Capt. George Weiser, CST operations officer. “It’s great that we get to practice and train with our emergency management partners.”