The Complex

Nat Guard WMD teams were on hand in Boston yesterday

While Northern Command, the U.S. military's combatant command responsible for defending U.S. soil tells Killer Apps it has not sent any troops to Boston, local National Guard units were on scene during the bombings at the Boston Marathon yesterday.

In particular, the Massachusetts and New York National Guards had deployed their Civil Support Teams to the marathon. (It's worth pointing out that the fact that so many well trained first responders were already on hand may have played a role in keeping the death toll relatively low.)

CSTs, as they are known, are National Guard units that are specially trained and equipped to detect and respond to chemical, biological, or radiological incidents. Basically, they're the first people a governor would call in the event of a WMD attack. These teams were on hand before the marathon even started, according to New York Guard spokesman Eric Durr, who says that such teams are deployed before most major events where public officials worry about the threat of a WMD attack.

"If a bomb goes off, they can check out the scene and determine whether or not there's any other contaminants besides the explosive," said Durr. "They come with a full suite of detection gear, communications equipment, and we generally deploy them in teams of two or three vehicles. Of course they're onsite anytime there's a major public event" such as the opening of the UN General Assembly, the Masters Tournament, or NASCAR race.

"Any significant gathering of people, there's usually a CST in the background prepared to assist law enforcement," said Durr. He could not say how, or how soon after the attack, the CSTs were able to figure out that no WMD were involved in the incident.

While this photo shows CST members on scene wearing khakis and dark polo shirts, they are trained to work in "dirty" environments wearing hazmat suits. They are also trained in decontamination techniques in order to help law enforcement officials respond to WMD incidents.

(In contrast to the relatively low-profile CST uniforms, check out these photos of police guarding sites around Boston after the attack. They're carrying combat gear associated with special operations troops, including helmets with night-vision-goggle mounts, advanced communications gear, and even assault rifles painted with camouflage patterns.)

Durr noted that New York's CST has returned home to its base at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn and that the New York Guard hasn't received any further requests for assistance from Massachusetts. However, a Navy Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit from Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island has been dispatched to the scene. Navy EOD technicians are some of the best in the world at investigating the forensics behind a bomb attack. In addition to the CSTs, Guardsmen wearing Army Combat Uniforms were cleary visible in footage of the attack assisting first responders.

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