Have you seen the men in hazmat suits moving around blue trucks and tents in the parking lot outside the former Waccamaw Pottery in Fantasy Harbor?
Don’t be alarmed. It’s the Army National Guard.
“It’s about being ready and relevant. We must maintain relevance in the fight and readiness to respond,” said Lt. Col. Doug Bowling, commander of South Carolina Army National Guard’s 43rd Civil Support Team, outside a training exercise Tuesday.
The day’s exercise involved a nightmare scenario: a group had made it into the mall with hazardous materials that puzzled first responders. Their mission: support local units in locating, evaluating and eliminating the possible threat.
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Twenty-two trained hazmat technicians with the 43rd CST were running through drills for responses to hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction in the lot Tuesday afternoon. The team provides support for local first responders tackling a variety of homeland security threats.
The unit provided backup aid in January when a suspicious substance was found in an envelope at the Social Security office in Conway. The team has also offered extra security in Myrtle Beach during events like the Memorial Day Bikefest and Carolina Country Music Fest.
The unit of full-time guardsmen is based in West Columbia and is comprised of members specializing in 14 fields ranging from medical to decontamination. The training will continue in different Myrtle Beach locations through Thursday.
“We’re being externally evaluated by the folks at Army North in preparation for a training proficiency evaluation in November,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Fowler. The evaluation in November determines the team’s ability to retain certification.