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NEWS | March 14, 2024

‘The President’s CST’ for a reason: 33rd WMD-CST supports 2024 SOTUA

By Master Sgt. Arthur M. Wright D.C. National Guard

U.S. Army Capt. Ketner Jackson has seen his fair share of interactions with hazardous materials that threaten life and public safety. Over a decade ago, he was a survey team member for the 48th Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team (WMD-CST), based in Pinellas Park, Florida.

“I entered the Florida National Guard as a 54B, a chemical operations specialist, and later joined the 48th WMD-CST as a survey team member making entry into potential hazardous environments known as hot zones,” Capt. Jackson said. “Identifying and assessing CBRN hazards and threats.”

And even as a junior enlisted Soldier, he was trained to recognize times were changing, along with the means to create mayhem.

“Threats constantly evolve,” he said. “Civil Support Teams are one of the most well-trained organizations within the Department of Defense (DOD) construct, to counter the threat. Regardless of rank, we’re leaders in hazard materials detection.”

Capt. Jackson recently brought his years of experience to the District of Columbia National Guard’s 33rd Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team (WMD-CST). As Deputy Commander for the 33rd WMD-CST, his members support federal, state, and civil authorities at a domestic Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) incident by identifying CBRN agents/substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with requests for additional support.​

“Our mission is also focused on prevention,” Capt. Jackson said. “Whether it’s a high visibility professional football game, actional CBRN threat intel, or the State of the Union—we’re already pre-staged, ready to respond.”

On March 7, the mission was the 2024 State of the Union Address. The 33rd WMD-CST was strategically positioned to respond effectively with D.C. Fire, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Capitol Police, and CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Packages (CERFP) units.

“We’re called ‘The President’s CST’ for a reason,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Chasity Townsend, administration noncommissioned officer, 33rd WMD-CST. “The ops tempo and pace are on a much higher level here and there’s a lot more visibility. We’re really ‘Always ready, always there.’”

In addition to supporting high-profile events, including United Nations Summits, Super Bowl LVII, and other internationally discussed events, WMD-CSTs train with their military counterparts and federal authorities steadily.

“Here in DC, we’re far more involved with multiple federal agencies—there’s mutual respect, interagency coordination and trust,” Capt. Jackson said. “Just being part of the State of the Union and with the Presidential Inauguration on the horizon for example, is something I never imagined being this involved. It’s experiences I look forward to telling my kids in the future, ‘Look where I started and where I am now.’”

The SOTUA mission follows another milestone. The 33rd WMD-CST successfully received a “T” rating during an Army North (ARNORTH) Collective Lanes Training, Feb. 28-March 1, 2024. The evaluation takes place every 18 months to ensure members are prepared to effectively respond to WMD incidents throughout the National Capital Region, the Continental United States, and its territories.

“This is a major measuring metric in determining mission readiness,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Christopher Miller, first sergeant for 33rd WMD-CST. “Army North is our official evaluating entity, and they conduct our formal external evaluations to assign us our TPU rating. If the unit does not receive a “T” rating, we will be re-evaluated within 6 months and could potentially be removed from the national response management plan which is our national response mission. Training with and being evaluated by Army North evaluation teams is paramount.”

Members were measured against 574 tasks, from establishing communications with first and emergency responders to going down range to take samples of the most toxic substances known to man. Receiving a “T” rating on all 311 critical tasks and accomplishing all 574 key tasks is a testament to the team’s leadership and drive to being the best WMD-CST in the nation.

“The skills we have are perishable, so recurrent training helps to keep a sharp edge,” 1st Sgt. Miller said. “What we do is extremely complex, so repetitions are required for optimal performance.”

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