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Civil Support Team exercises airlift capability

Members of the 83rd Civil Support Team and 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana National Guard place a ramp onto a C-130 Hercules Jan. 21, 2016. The guardsmen were exercising the loading of CST equipment and vehicles in the event they have to transport the equipment in an actual state or federal emergency. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

Members of the 83rd Civil Support Team and 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana National Guard place a ramp onto a C-130 Hercules Jan. 21, 2016. The guardsmen were exercising the loading of CST equipment and vehicles in the event they have to transport the equipment in an actual state or federal emergency. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

Members of the 83rd Civil Support Team and 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana National Guard load a CST operations vehicle onto a C-130 Hercules Jan. 21, 2016. The guardsmen were exercising the loading of CST equipment and vehicles in the event they have to transport the equipment in an actual state or federal emergency. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

Members of the 83rd Civil Support Team and 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana National Guard load a CST operations vehicle onto a C-130 Hercules Jan. 21, 2016. The guardsmen were exercising the loading of CST equipment and vehicles in the event they have to transport the equipment in an actual state or federal emergency. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

Members of the 83rd Civil Support Team and 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana National Guard load a CST operations vehicle onto a C-130 Hercules Jan. 21, 2016. The guardsmen were exercising the loading of CST equipment and vehicles should they have to transport the equipment in an actual state or federal emergency. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

Members of the 83rd Civil Support Team and 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana National Guard load a CST operations vehicle onto a C-130 Hercules Jan. 21, 2016. The guardsmen were exercising the loading of CST equipment and vehicles should they have to transport the equipment in an actual state or federal emergency. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson/Released)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- 14 members of the 83rd Civil Support Team spent three days in January at the 120th Airlift Wing preparing, weighing and loading equipment and vehicles into 120th Airlift Wing C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.

The team was involved in the aircraft loading exercise to gain experience needed in the event they are requested to respond to an actual state or national emergency that requires them to use the airlift capability.

"We're required to be able to transport all of our equipment and vehicles via air or over the ground," said 83rd CST Operations Officer Capt. Jason Steichen. "So now that the wing has C-130 capability it's a perfect opportunity for us to come up and train with the small air terminal folks and the rest of the people at the wing to see if we can load our vehicles and equipment."

Full-time Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) members of the Montana Army and Air National Guard make up the team of quick-response professionals ready to deploy where needed at a moment's notice.

According to the 83rd CST mission statement, the team provides civil authorities support with identifying chemical, biological or radiological agents or substances. The team also can access the current and projected consequences of an event involving weapons of mass destruction.

"This equipment and experience that comes with the Civil Support Team allows us to be able to respond to any intentional or accidental release of unknown substances-chemicals or hazardous materials to support the first responders in the state of Montana," Steichen said.

The team can quickly respond to emergencies and operate high-tech equipment often seen used on crime scene investigation television programs. A mobile lab can be deployed with specialists to identify any unknown agents found at a location.

"The mobile lab I run has the unique capability of processing many samples associated with various NBC sample types," said 83rd CST Nuclear-Medicine Science Officer Juan Stevens. "I can process using chemical analysis, extracting DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), biologicals and look at evidence."

During the exercise, 120th AW loadmasters and small air terminal personnel worked with the 83rd CST personnel to follow predetermined load plans and ensure vehicle cabinets were locked and the equipment was secure.

"What we're doing here this week is we're working with the 186th (Airlift Squadron) and the 120th to make sure our vehicles can load inside the aircraft," said Assistant Operations and Training Noncommissioned Officer Tech. Sgt. Shane Anderson. "So once we have everything in place now this just builds on the time that we get called up that we can deploy to make a faster transition to the threat that we're needed at."

Anderson said the team was able to successfully test the ability to fly their smaller utility terrain vehicles (UTV) and loading ramps in a C-130 during an exercise held in 2015. He said he looks forward to continuing to train with the aircraft and 120th AW members.

Stevens and Anderson are among the longest serving members of the 83rd CST and enjoy being a part of the team.

"This is an awesome job," Anderson said. "I've worked four different positions on the team and enjoyed every single one of them. It's a great group to work with and we all have each other's backs."

"It's my dream job to be able to work in a lab and work with these guys and be able to get that rush on a scene, the adrenaline of something that's really happening," Stevens said. "It even happens during team training missions. I've always said that if I never get that anymore and I'm not excited anymore then I'll have to call it quits."
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