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NEWS | March 23, 2021

51st CST, first responders stage Northern Exposure exercise

By Senior Airman Tristan Viglianco Michigan National Guard

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – To keep its skills sharp, the Michigan National Guard's 51st Civil Support Team regularly exercises with law enforcement agencies across the state. Northern Exposure 21 served as an opportunity for the unit to refine its response capabilities March 15-18.

In the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) incident, the 51st CST would play a vital role in resolving the situation.

"We are here as a HAZMAT response unit," said U.S. Army Capt. Ryan Kimball, MING 51st CST operations officer. "In the event of likely or suspected weapons of mass destruction (WMD), our mission is to identify, assess, assist and advise any agencies across the state who request us."

The four-day exercise helped the CST establish face-to-face relationships that are critical to success if something ever does happen, he said.

The exercise allowed the 51st CST to coordinate first responders from Isabella and Kent counties and the Michigan State Police.

"Northern Exposure is important because from our local perspective, we don't get many opportunities to integrate with the military," said McCarther Griffis, Isabella County emergency management director. "The CST is an amazing asset, and the exercise allows us to get boots on the ground and run through real scenarios. It allows us to know what our limitations are and see what resources we have to support us."

Northern Exposure 21 was integrated with another exercise, Rising Waters 2021. The scenario was catastrophic flooding leading to chemical contamination, followed by a possible WMD situation.

The Mt. Pleasant Fire Department (MPFD) was first on the scene and asked the CST for help.

""We look at them as a huge resource," said Doug Lobsinger, MPFD assistant chief. "When something is outside our capabilities, we are able to call them to help us figure it out."

During real situations, the 51st CST provides a variety of capabilities for responding to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

"We are all 100% HAZMAT qualified," said Campbell. "Our survey section is the subject matter experts on HAZMAT. They have a wealth of knowledge and training. We also have the ability to fill equipment gaps."