NEWS | Nov. 6, 2020

63rd Civil Support Team Competes for title of Best CST

By Sgt. Jordan Sivayavirojna and Spc. Caleb Stone

COLUMBIA, Mo.—The Oklahoma National Guard's 63rd Civil Support Team (CST) participated in the inaugural Multi CST Challenge event in the Boone County Fire Protection District, Columbia, Missouri, Oct. 26-29.

Unlike traditional training events, teams competed for the title of “Best Civil Support Team” to see who has the most efficient procedures.

The four-day event, hosted by the Missouri National Guard's 7th CST, evaluated each team on their response in supporting civil authorities at a notional domestic Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High Yield Explosive (CBRNE) incident site.

“The training is based on real world or plausible real world scenarios,” said Lt. Col. Jared Gailey, nuclear science officer with the Utah Air National Guard. “They should be able to respond to any CBRNE hazard.”

The challenge highlighted the technical proficiency in each team’s performance.

“It was so incredibly difficult to select a team,” said Russ Payne, contractor with Tactical Science. “Oklahoma, Indiana and Kansas all led in so many categories and did so well. It really came down to the non-checklist items.”

Contractors with Tactical Science were at a stalemate attempting to decide which team would take the title shortly before presenting the award.

“It was just so tight,” Payne said. “It was so close. It was literally not until an hour ago we decided who would win.”

The Multi CST Challenge is one of many training events that the 63rd CST regularly takes part in. Known as Oklahoma National Guard “first responders”, the highly specialized team attends week-long training events throughout the year.

“It's important we practice and train," said Sgt. Karlee Jones, surveyor with the 63rd CST. "There's a lot that goes into a real world situation. It can be a really dangerous job.”

Despite being small by traditional unit measures, each of the Civil Support Teams are authorized and capable of responding to terrorist attacks and the intentional or unintentional employment of weapons of mass destruction.

“The CST is unique in that it is a lieutenant colonel command, and there's 22 of us,” said Lt. Col. Carl Bennett, commander of the 63rd CST. “Typically in the Army a lieutenant colonel command will be with a number of companies. The difference with the CST is that there's 22 highly technical individuals that are responsible for a number of highly technical things.”

The 63rd CST has been described by some of its members as a “bridge” between military and civilian disaster response teams.

“We have the ability to respond with extreme capabilities that can identify things [that] maybe they couldn't,” said 1st Lt. John Schatz, nuclear science officer with the 63rd CST. “This gives us an opportunity to help our community by giving them a quick presumptive analysis of what's going on, so that they can make informed decisions at the moment, instead of waiting for results to come back weeks later.”

Despite the inherent difficulty of their jobs, members of the 63rd CST remained confident in their technical abilities throughout the joint training event.

“The big picture of the Civil Support Team is we all work together for a common goal,” Schatz said. “[As an example] I can't do what I do without my survey team.”

The event concluded on Oct. 29, with Indiana National Guard 53rd CST taking the title of “Best Civil Support Team.” Although Oklahoma National Guard 63rd CST did not take home the overall challenge title, the survey team was recognized as “Best in Competition”.