773rd CST conducts joint training with Belgian partners

by Spc. Glenn M. Anderson
221st Public Affairs Detachment

ZAVENTEM, Belgium — Army Reserve Soldiers with the 773rd Civil Support Team, 7th Civil Support Command, based out of Kaiserslautern, Germany, participated for the third straight year in an annual joint training exercise with the Zaventem fire department here, April 9 through 14.

In addition to the fire department training, the 773rd CST also participated in a U.S. Army Garrison Brussels joint anti-terrorism force protection exercise at the Department of Defense Brussels High School.

“We’re having a great time and a lot of good lessons are being learned here,” said Lt. Col. Leslie Dillard, commander of the 773rd CST. “The integration with the Belgian forces along with our forces has just been exceptional.” The training scenario at the high school required several emergency responders to work together, such as the fire department, the Red Cross, medical agencies, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the 773rd CST. In the training scenario, a chemical agent was released into a classroom resulting in casualties and creating chaos due to the toxic nature of the chemical.

“The training here went very well as we were able to do some training that we normally do not get to do,” said Capt. Jennifer Gross, the survey team leader of the 773rd CST. “We did some confined space rescue training along with mitigation techniques that the fire department here implements and we were able to learn from them.” Once the 773rd received the call to respond, the unit went into action by testing for contaminates in the classroom.

“All in all it was an awesome time this past week,” said Gross. “Being able to learn from another outside team, especially from another country and a fire department like this, we were able to really grasp firsthand how someone else does their job.”

“It was really good training for me,” said Sgt. David Larkin, a survey member with the 773rd CST. “I was lucky enough to be able to get suited up and partake first hand in the exercise here, which is always a good feeling. Yes we know that this is a training environment, but had this been a real event, even though the substance was toxic and may have been very harmful, I am confident that our entire team to include the participants would have done a great job, and the fire department was top notch as they have always been,” said Larkin.

“I think all of this training including the ride along on a mission with the 773rd CST went very well and everyone gave it 100 percent,” said Sgt. Maj. Stef Vandersmissen, the senior non-commisioned officer in charge of the fire station, HAZMAT specialist, and primary planner of the training event. “I love working with the 773rd CST and over the past three years they have become a part of my family,” said Vandersmissen. “Every time we train with each other, both teams win because we learn new things from each other every time.”

At the conclusion of the exercise, both teams knew that if a real world situation were to occur, they could count on working together to mitigate a possible dangerous situation dealing with HAZMAT.

Vandersmissen concluded by saying, “vis unita fortior,” which translated into English means, “united strength is stronger.” For more information, the media may contact the 7th Civil Support Command public affairs office by email at michael.e.stewart32.mil@mail.mil, or by phone at German local: 0631-411-4725, German cell: 0162-270-4936.