The Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team out of Jefferson City held a scenario practice on the Kemper Campus on Wednesday. The scenarios range from finding radioactive material, possible pipe bombs, meth labs and more. A little over 20 personnel were on hand for this scenario. The team is a combined Army-Air Force unit and is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Aaron Stover. This is also the first time the Kemper Campus has been used as a place for a scenario such as this.
Cooper County Emergency Management Operations Center Director Tom White was also on hand to see the event unfold.
"They also provide insight for the public so they will know what is going on with these scenarios," White said.
With trucks and millions of dollars worth of equipment the scenario was treated as a real event.
Scenario creator Captain John Breeden chose the Kemper Campus because of his knowledge of Boonville when he served in Alpha Company at the Army National Guard. While the scenario was played out, only Breeden knew the complete scenario story. Breeden also said that they would be on the campus as long as it took to accomplish the final goal of determining the substances.
While the scenarios are based on possible events, Breeden has not personally seen any large scale event take place since joining the team only a year ago. He told of past events that the team had responded to and that they were not all about weapons of mass destruction.
"We had some threats out there in 2005 and 2006. We even responded to hurricanes Katrina and Gustav. Again, it's not just about weapons of mass destruction or mass casualties, it's also about if you've had a natural disaster or something leaking from an industrial plant," Breeden said.
While the scenario was progressing, a HAZMAT tent was set up. Two individuals known as the entry team with HAZMAT level A gear entered K Barracks looking for the substance that would need to be analyzed. This substance was found in the basement of the barracks. Level A HAZMAT gear is specially important in this case since there is nothing that can enter or escape the suit, therefore protecting the individual from harm.
White stressed that depending on the substance, longer duration of exposure could be harmful even with Level A HAZMAT.
White mentioned that there are two backup members who are ready to go in in case they were needed.
"They also take a lot of test equipment in with them for air and soil samples. They can analyze what they have and don't have on sight," White said.
Breeden also mentioned that they help local agencies in dealing with events such as the ones they specialize in.
Page 2 of 2 - "We can respond to local municipalities and train with local firefighters in HAZMAT. We have trained with FBI and police departments on data collection," Breeden said.
This data collection is the collection of substances such as the ones in the scenario.
Breeden also said that potentially the investigation would go to the FBI. A cooperation between the two agencies would collect the data which could be used in court as evidence to convict the defendant in a possible case.
But on Campus the scenario focused just on finding out what exactly the substance was and training individuals in determining different substances.
During the scenario, someone mentioned over a radio that they suspected it to be a pipe bomb but Breeden assured them that this indeed was not the case.
White said that the team has a complete medical facility in case something were to happen to an individual.
"I was very impressed with the team. They have an immense amount of capability," White said.
As the day progressed White got to see the team as they analyzed the samples taken from the scenario. Once the material was analyzed, a larger picture started to emerge. White said that the scenario ended with the conclusion that the materials were illegal drugs manufactured in a manor that keeps progressing. White said that drug manufactures are constantly changing their methods and that law enforcement agencies must keep up-to-date on how they do these things.
White also mentioned that more events like these take place throughout the year in the Boonville area. He said that there will be a full scale regional exercise dealing with 13 counties on October 18th at the Emergency Management Center.