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Guard CBRNE Challenge Team wins Air Force-wide event

The Air National Guard Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Challenge Team took first place overall in last week's Air Force-wide CBRN competition held at the Center for National Response in Charleston, W.V. Team members included from left to right: Tech Sgt. Tim Booth of the 188th Fighter Wing based in Fort Smith, Ark., Tech Sgt. Morgan Smith of the 173rd Fighter Wing based in Klamath Falls, Ore., Lt. Col. Bill Antoszewski and Tech Sgt. Ann McCormick, both of the 180th Fighter Wing based in Toledo, Ohio, and Tech Sgt. Jeff Sharpmack of the 189th Airlift Wing based in Little Rock, Ark. (Photo courtesy of the Ohio National Guard)

The Air National Guard Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Challenge Team took first place overall in last week's Air Force-wide CBRN competition held at the Center for National Response in Charleston, W.V. Team members included from left to right: Tech Sgt. Tim Booth of the 188th Fighter Wing based in Fort Smith, Ark., Tech Sgt. Morgan Smith of the 173rd Fighter Wing based in Klamath Falls, Ore., Lt. Col. Bill Antoszewski and Tech Sgt. Ann McCormick, both of the 180th Fighter Wing based in Toledo, Ohio, and Tech Sgt. Jeff Sharpmack of the 189th Airlift Wing based in Little Rock, Ark. (Photo courtesy of the Ohio National Guard)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, FORT SMITH, Ark. -- The Air National Guard Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Challenge Team took first place overall in last week's Air Force-wide CBRN competition held at the Center for National Response, the premier DoD facility for CBRN response training operated by the West Virginia National Guard in Charleston, W.V.

The annual competition showcases the joint CBRN response strategic partnership of AF Bioenvironmental Engineering (BE) and Civil Engineering Emergency Management (EM) officers and technicians. Each of the 10 major command teams were represented by one BE officer, two BE technicians, and two EM technicians.

The ANG team, which was lead by Lt. Col. Bill Antoszewski, finished first in five of seven scenarios and second in two of the seven scenarios for the win. Other team members included Tech Sgt. Ann McCormick of the 180th Fighter Wing based in Toledo, Ohio, Tech Sgt. Tim Booth of the 188th Fighter Wing based in Fort Smith, Ark., Tech Sgt. Jeff Sharpmack of the 189th Airlift Wing based in Little Rock, Ark., and Tech Sgt. Morgan Smith of the 173rd Fighter Wing based in Klamath Falls, Ore.

"The most important lesson from the Challenge was that skilled ANG Bioenvironmental Engineering and Emergency Management personnel can work together, with short notice, to identify and mitigate CBRN hazards," he said. "The greatest compliment we received was when cadre members and visitors would ask, "Who's BE and who's EM?.' The two career fields integrated so well that no one could tell them apart."

Last year with Antoszewski as the lead, the team finished second with no preparation. "All the other MAJCOMS conducted training scenarios prior to competing so they got a lot of training leading up to it last year," said Senior Master Sgt. Ron Redding, the 188th Fighter Wing's installation emergency manager. "The Guard came in not even knowing each other and almost won."

This year, the Air National Guard team spent five days here at the 188th Fighter Wing from April 26-30 rehearsing for the event. The unit's Regional Training Site is the most utilized facility in the nation for training emergency management personnel on CBRNE response.

Antoszewski said his squad relished the chance to absorb as much training as possible entering the challenge.

"The NGB offered the 188th's facilities, and we gladly took the opportunity," he said. "The 188th has a lot of equipment and facilities you can't find at other units. The 188th also has a lot of experienced personnel, who are teaching what we're going to the challenge to do, all the entry procedures, the sampling. The opportunity to come here for a week and train was huge for us."

During this year's CBRN Challenge, the teams faced a wide variety of scenarios over five days ranging from a chemical gas release on the Washington, D.C., subway system, to a weapons cache in an Afghan mountain cave, to a disgruntled Airman's dorm room at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

In each scenario, BE and EM team members were given three hours to work with an evaluator/controller "incident commander" and establish scene control, survey and identify CBRN hazards, develop health risk assessments, and provide recommendations for personnel protection and mitigation.

Joint BE and EM technician teams were required to start up, calibrate, and test all detection equipment and make multiple entries into the emergency scene in Level A chemical protective suits and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to identify the CBRN hazards. They were also evaluated on their ability to properly operate the detection equipment, sample and containerize hazardous materials for off-site analysis, and preserve criminal evidence.

BE officers were evaluated on their ability to manage an emergency response team within the AF Incident Management System (AFIMS) framework, develop appropriate sampling and detection plans, and their use of the entry team's information to identify the overall CBRN hazard and health risk.

Antoszewski said each team is graded on a series of objectives cataloged on a checklist, and points are deducted from each item missing from the list.

Antoszewski, McCormick and Booth specialize in bioenvironmental. Sharpmack and Smith hail from the emergency management career field.

"We're coming from four different bases from four different parts of the country and have never worked together," Antoszewski said during the training. "The ability to work together as a team before we compete will help I think. Plus, the equipment and instruction at the 188th I think will really help us. They have a live burner, a smokehouse to work in. There just aren't that many in the Guard. We're hoping that some familiarity with the equipment and each other will help us out this year."

Antoszewski said the most vital aspect of the training and the competition is that it helps foster the cooperation between the two career fields and exists as a boon to the overall mission.

"Bioenvironmental and emergency management personnel are who the Air Force expect to go downrange, to do analysis, surveys and quantification of hazards," he said. "It's a special skill set that both career fields share. We have to work together for a common mission.

"Until a few years ago, both career fields did their own thing and the two sides didn't talk. The training we've received and this competition have been hugely beneficial for us to get on the same page."