Wisconsin National Guard
If there was one unit that could symbolize the Wisconsin National Guard's domestic operations role, an argument could be made for the 54th Civil Support Team, which held a change-of-command ceremony Wednesday (May 16) at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Madison.
The 54th CST is a joint unit - encompassing Wisconsin Soldiers and Airmen - that is a round-the-clock team postured for response to natural disasters, toxic industrial chemical incidents and terrorists situations with an emphasis on weapons of mass destruction.
The CST is also joint in the aspect that it frequently coordinates, trains and responds with local, state and federal organizations. The unit is often looked to for initial reports and analysis of unknown materials which could potentially pose a threat to the public's safety.
"Their ability to analyze materials and respond, both from their training standpoint and equipment standpoint, far exceeds what we have here locally," said FBI supervisory agent Christopher Cole. "So in an incident we're going to rely heavily upon them."
The FBI and the CST share the domestic WMD mission and the partnership between the two agencies is extremely important, Cole said.
The 54th works with more than just the FBI, however, having trained and worked with more than 90 civil agencies. And according to Col. Paul Russell, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 64th Troop Command, the CST has responded 100 percent of the time they've been requested.
"On average you spend one-third of the fiscal year away from your friends and family. Remember the importance of what you do," Russell said. "We are counting on you, Wisconsin is counting on you - as are the citizens of our great nation."
Air Guard Lt. Col. David May assumed command of the 54th CST, from Army Guard Lt. Col. Timothy Covington during the formal ceremony. May becomes the first Air National Guard officer to lead the unit, which is part of the Department of Defense's program to assist local authorities in any WMD event.
"This is an incredibly exciting and humbling day for me," May said. "While I never could have foreseen a unique opportunity such as this one … I consider it a dream come true to be at this particular unit.
"Today starts a new chapter for us and it will be a chapter we will write together," May continued. "I can only come to the conclusion that as we build on the many successes of the past, this CST team is destined for continued greatness and a well deserved place in the top tier of CSTs across the nation."