“A full-scale exercise:” National Guard’s Civil Support Team puts training to the test

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BROWN DEER (WITI) -- Keeping us safe on U.S. soil has been a priority since 2001. All this week, the National Guard has been putting their skills to the test. The training exercise tests the Guard's ability to assess a hazard and respond, utilizing all of its equipment and capabilities. It's training that happens every 18 months.

On Thursday, September 11th, members of the Wisconsin National Guard's 54th "Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team" were prepared to practice.

"A full-scale exercise where we're actually out here, in a real environment, training with our equipment," Lt. Col. David May said.

A Brown Deer office building served as the scene of a variety of scenarios designed to put the team's training to the test.

"We're just here to support, primarily, the state of Wisconsin," Lt. Col. May said.

The support involves assisting a variety of first responding entities, from police and fire departments to hazmat teams, to the Secret Service and the FBI.

"Most people in the military get some training for chemical, biological, or radiological environment, but this is very specialized and is not something you'll find quite like this anywhere else," a National Guard official said.

"We've gone from maybe one or two calls a year to -- we are busy," Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Chris Brown said.

Brown says during his ten years with the team, he's seen the CST develop into a valuable resource, which local first responders don't hesitate to utilize.

"We're just flying all over the state, which is outstanding. That's what we're supposed to do," Brown said.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Ava Kielisch says she's excited to join a team that has earned a reputation for being ready.

"This is my first full week on the team, and it's our evaluated exercise, so it's been -- hit the ground running and take it from there. I was in the National Guard for two years before I even heard of this unit, and now that I'm aboard with it and realize what we're capable of and what we can do as a team, it's pretty impressive," Sgt. Kielisch said.

The motto of the National Guard is "always ready, always there," and in the case of the 54th Civil Support Team, it couldn't be more true. They have to be ready because they're on call 24/7/365 to keep us safe.