The Mississippi National Guard's 47th Civil Support Team conducted a large-scale, multi-agency training event, Exercise Marlinspike II, April 3-6, 2-17, from the Battlefield Airmen Center in Gulfport, Mississippi, bringing Guardsmen and 31 federal and state agencies together across several coastal locations.
Unlike many similar exercises, participants in Marlinspike II are not told the scenario they will face until shortly before having to respond. CST Leaders said this creates the need for on-the-spot decisions on personnel, equipment and strategy and teaches techniques for solving complex problems.
In one scenario, an FBI special response team raided a Hancock County warehouse and came across unknown substances.
The Mississippi Air National Guard's expertise in Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear detection played a significant role in these types of scenarios dealing with threats from weapons of mass destruction.
Airmen in the emergency management field of the 186th Air Refueling Wing, headquartered in Meridian, Mississippi, served on the team called in to determine if the items were WMDs. The Airmen utilized their personal protective equipment to maintain the highest level of caution.
“We entered with an all hazards approach,” said MSANG Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Dickerson, 186th Air Refueling Wing emergency manager. “We utilized various types of equipment that allows you to identify substances that are liquids or powders. We also have instruments that detect radiation levels and gases.”
In another Harrison County scenario, the 209th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron, headquartered in Gulfport, Miss., boarded a vessel to determine the nature of a substance found by federal agents who stormed a boat to free hostages.
Due to being on the water, having to navigate stairs, and no previous occupants displaying symptoms of illness, 209th leaders concluded to use a scaled down version of their protective gear, donning only their chemical resistant Tyvek suits and masks.
“It gave us a chance to read the situation and make decisions. For me as a senior leader, that’s an awesome opportunity,” said MSANG Senior Master Sgt. Brian Hernstrom, 209th SOCES emergency management flight superintendent.
Airmen described Marlinspike II as “very real world” in that it calls for responders to arrive at a site not knowing what to expect, promote the use of joint communication to coordinate with other agencies, and ensures the most efficient and effective response.