National Guard, Highway Patrol conduct joint exercise on responding to suspicious packages

Local News

Every day, thousands of envelopes and packages are delivered throughout the state, but some may contain unknown dangerous materials.

The North Dakota National Guard and Highway Patrol joined forces to help combat what could be a potentially dangerous situation.

It was a cold and windy morning, but that didn’t stop the North Dakota National Guard from working with the Highway Patrol to keep our streets safe.

An envelope was placed in the governor’s office with what was described to those participating in the exercise as an “unidentified white powder.”

SSgt. Chris Hickel of the North Dakota National Guard said, “After we respond to the threat, we transfer that over to the state microbiology lab for a confirmatory response.”

There was a variety of experiences within the teams that responded to this threat as well.

The National Guard unit was comprised of 22 soldiers, while the Highway Patrol had 10.

“We have a medical operations officer, we have a physician’s assistant, we have our command team, we have chemical biological radiological specialists, we have a nuclear medical science officer,” said Hickel.

The participants dawned all of their HazMat — or hazardous materials — gear and identified the threat.

Before going to the actual envelope, they needed to ensure there were no other contaminants in the room — as per their protocol.

Trooper Nick Althoff of the North Dakota Highway Patrol said, “We try to mitigate that suspicious package and prevent any further contamination to the rest of the Capitol as well as mitigation for health, and for further mitigation going forward.”

After identifying no further contaminants in the room, the team began testing the material that was found in the envelope using a variety of tools.

The teams were evaluated to ensure proper measures are taken.

Communication between the Civil Support Team — or CST — of the National Guard and the troopers were also evaluated and is important in a real-life scenario.

Althoff said that there were many benefits of the joint exercise.

“The biggest benefit is just how we would respond with CST. Their response is probably a little larger than ours. And how we would become interoperable with CST and the National Guard,” said Althoff.

Although one would hope that they would not receive a call for a potentially dangerous contaminant sent through the mail, both the National Guard and Highway Patrol are ready to respond.

The idea for this joint exercise has been in the works for about three months before coming to fruition.

Both the National Guard and Highway Patrol say that there will be more joint exercises to come.

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