TEL AVIV, IL –
Members of the Missouri National Guard's 7th Civil Support Team (CST) traveled to Tel Aviv to learn more about how the Israeli Home Front Command's (HFC) 60th Search and Rescue Brigade (SRB) tackles security concerns such as chemical, biological, radiological, or explosion (CBRNE) contaminations, should such an event happen.
Lt. Col. Brian Hatcher, commander of the 7th CST, and Sgt. First Class Nicholas Allee, operations officer, 7th CST, were invited to learn more about how the HFC functions as an emergency unit compared to how the CST operates. The goal is for these two organizations to better understand each other's strengths and weaknesses and develop strategies for providing mutual training support to help bolster the response in a CBRNE event. Additionally, training together can help to foster stronger ties and build trust between Israel and United States forces, which can be invaluable in times of crisis.
The 7th CST is one of 58 CSTs in the U.S. They are a specialized unit that responds to requests for assistance from civil authorities in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive (CBRNE) incident. The CST's primary mission is to assist civil authorities in identifying and mitigating the threat posed by the incident and to provide expert advice and support to help local responders effectively manage the situation. This mission may include providing technical expertise, conducting on-site substance analysis, and helping coordinate the response efforts of various agencies. The CST's ultimate goal is to help ensure the safety of the public and first responders and minimize the incident's impact on the community. In addition, the 7th CST routinely works and trains at large sporting events or other special events where large groups of people are present.
Similarly, the Israeli 60th SRB is a highly skilled force trained to execute unique search and rescue missions in Israel and abroad. The 60th SRB is one of four brigades under the Home Front Command (HFC), with soldiers doing mandatory service and more in reserve. In routine operations, the SRB occupies lines in Judea and Samaria and regularly carries out all ongoing security activities. In times of emergency, the brigades are deployed to sites of destruction to rescue those trapped under rubble. The Home Front Command, the Israeli equivalent to the U.S. National Guard, was established following the Gulf War in 1992 to better respond with military forces tailored to homeland defense. They specialize in civilian protection, operating during emergencies throughout Israel and worldwide, and regularly meet with U.S. military responders to exchange ideas and procedures on response following a natural or man-made catastrophe.
Hatcher and Allee participated in a five-day "Commander's Course on Incident Command System," a bi-annual event where commanders from the HFC's Expert Unit, police, fire and rescue services, and Magen David Adom (MADA, Israel's national ambulance service), and other services come together to learn how each department operates in a given scenario. The teams then incorporate what they learned into a series of exercises that helps them iron out how a response would function in case of an actual attack or accident.
For this course, the participants had classroom instruction where they were introduced to the municipal responsibilities in the first and second responses to the Initial Isolation Zone (IIZ) related abilities and the tactics of the responses. After that, Home Front Command presented its capabilities and interoperability with other emergency authorities and first responders and its role in various hazard materials scenarios.
There were then three exercises where they put what they learned in the classroom and tested the theory into practice. The first was a "walk phase" of the various means of operations in an Initial Isolation Zone (IIZ), followed by a larger-scale exercise where all emergency services came together to practice at one of the HFC's practice facilities. The last training occurred at a nearby city’s vacant football (soccer) stadium.
A second lieutenant* in the CBRNE unit who is also a CBRNE instructor from Israeli's HFC, described her job as very rewarding. "We teach everyone: the army, the police, the fire agency, everyone in CBRNE activities. This course is beneficial because you usually don't see all the emergency agencies in one place, training together in one location." The second lieutenant loves her job and wants to stay in long enough to make captain.
During the exercises, Hatcher and Allee closely observed the training to see how they were performed. Then they discussed the different aspects with their liaison, a captain* who is head of the Unconventional Terror Desk, Home Front Command J3. In those discussions, they asked questions of why the Expert Unit did certain things the way they did, asked if they had thought about doing it different ways, and ultimately, according to Hatcher, were trying to figure out if there was a way for the CST to assist the HFC to improve their operations for such potential events. When discussing the functions of the events with the liaison, Hatcher said, "I think we can find ways to help you guys [HFC's Expert Unit]. The 7th CST can do with 22 soldiers what you do over 4-5 agencies with about 60-70 people. I'd love to develop this partnership further to see how we can help each other." And "partnership development" is what Hatcher is focused on. "At the end of the day, partnerships improve all of us."
In Israel, the state designates all emergency services and assigns each a specialized role in case of an emergency. These specialized units are considered equal in terms of hierarchy, and each organization has a designated task for different scenarios of a CBRNE incident. In an emergency involving CBRNE, the Israeli Minister of Defense manages crisis management and coordinates actions among the emergency teams.
One piece of technology that is quite interesting is the Israel Home Front Command app, which is Israel's "citizen" app to alert citizens in case of an emergency. This alert could be a pending attack, where traffic is being stopped or diverted to allow emergency vehicles to get through to an emergency. Still, it also has a National Emergency Portal with interactive instructions and courses for grade school children to learn how to deal with and cope with such emergencies. Moreover, some soldiers are trained as designated instructors at HFC to teach children’s courses at schools. Such emergency education includes "Dealing with emergencies with "Zavi," the turtle," "The Program That Prepares you," a course that helps citizens better prepare for emergencies, a search and rescue course aimed at 10th graders in case of an earthquake or collapsed building, and most importantly, "What to do During Missile Attacks."
Americans do not deal with a constant threat like Israelis and do not need this type of app. It's a sobering reminder that our allies need our help, not just with operations and exercises like these, but also with building partnerships to help strengthen our militaries and local first responders. Security is a constant demand for all countries. Israel takes state security very seriously, especially their citizens' safety.
While the threats that each country prepares for and deals with may differ, the challenges of a military operating in the civilian arena and working with numerous civilian agencies supporting the civilian population are very similar. The HFC and the U.S. military have a longstanding relationship that includes exchanging best practices and lessons learned from real-world events and training. The Missouri National Guard's 7th CST is just the newest partner to refine these best practices to make them more robust and more future-proof in case the time ever comes to put into play what is a constant practice.
As the 7th CST and the Home Front Command continue to build these relationships and partnerships, both organizations will no doubt be more capable and ready to protect the citizens of both our countries in times of need. Until then, rest assured that they both are Always Ready. Always There.
*Names were removed due to security concerns.