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story.lead_photo.caption LYNN KUTTER ENTERPRISE-LEADER The 61st Civil Support Team out of Camp Robinson in Little Rock brought seven of its vehicles for a training exercise at Farmington Middle School. This truck with a satellite is part of a universal communication system that allows the team to link up with communications anywhere they go.

FARMINGTON -- The scenario is a dead suspect, lying on the floor of a hallway in Farmington Middle School. The terrorist is wearing a suicide vest that includes a vial with an unknown liquid substance.

The mission of the team will be to determine if the liquid is safe or dangerous.

The 61st Civil Support Team with Arkansas Army National Guard from Camp Robinson in North Little Rock recently brought 15 of its 22 members to Northwest Arkansas for two days of training, including the situation in Farmington.

John Luther, director of Washington County Emergency Management Department, helped to set up the training and he said anytime groups conduct training sessions in Washington County, it's good for the team, as well as the county.

In this case, the team received information the suspect was dead and had directions on where his body was located in the school. They knew that one person had been sent to the hospital for observation for any skin symptoms. The suspect had mild redness on his skin.

Commander Seth Tollivar said the 61st Civil Support Team is a full-time unit responsible for monitoring air quality. Its full-time job is to train and execute responses to the possibility of weapons of mass destruction and hazardous materials. Besides responding to emergencies, the team also works behind the scenes at major events such as Arkansas Razorback football games to make sure fans are safe from any type of air contaminants.

The team includes members of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army. Primarily, team members have chemical backgrounds but the unit includes staff who are infantry officers, medically trained personnel, laboratory trained personnel and some with communications backgrounds.

Jay Meeks, who works as a contractor training the team and setting up exercises, said the group works with local first responders during its sessions.

"We train in local jurisdictions because that's who they will work with when they respond to (an actual) situation," Meeks said.

Tollivar added, "Anytime we get a chance to go out and work with the local first responders and any municipality whether it is in Northwest Arkansas or anywhere around the state, it benefits our team."

It helps his team to be familiar with first responders around the state and to have already had some type of communication with them, he said.

For the Farmington scenario, the Civil Support Team worked with Farmington police and fire departments, an FBI liaison, Central EMS and the county emergency management office.

"This is a really good collective opportunity to talk through some responses and troubleshooting before an incident occurs," Tollivar said.

The Civil Support Team can respond to a situation on the front end or be available as needed.

"God forbid that something like this will ever happen but it's very easy for local resources to be consumed to the point of exhaustion or it can immediately be beyond the scope of what they are equipped to handle," Tollivar said. "So if there was an event that your local hazmat responders could tell immediately the scope of it or the sheer number of people who were supposedly affected then we could be called in very early on or they could deal with it with their testing and not get an answer and then call us because we have some additional tools that we bring."

The unit is an additional resource with the highest technical equipment available that is on call 24/7 for local authorities.

As a two-person team entered Farmington Middle School, the members first monitored all air quality for any problems at the outside doorway. They continued to use the same instruments as they moved through the building from hallway to hallway. Meeks said the team is measuring for any gases, any radioactive substances or any chemical warfare.

As they came up on the body, their priority was to identify the substance and mitigate any issues. They pulled samples and started analyzing the substance. Meeks said the team's portable equipment includes a machine that can run 15,000 different chemicals.

One of the most important parts of an exercise, Tollivar said, comes after the training.

"That is the biggest piece of what we do after the event. We'll (conduct) after action reviews and look at what we did well, what we didn't do well and try to build on those and refine the processes to make sure we're as efficient as we can be."

Tolliver expressed his appreciation to the school and city for allowing the team to use Farmington Middle School for its exercise.

Tolliver said Washington County has a "true gem" in Luther.

"He never tells us no and finds us unique training opportunities and coordinates with everyone" Tollivar said.

General News on 08/08/2018

Print Headline: National Guard Team Conducts Training On 'Unknown' Substance

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