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Utah Guard Forms New WMD Unit

Utah Guard Forms New WMD Unit

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A new full-time unit of the Utah National Guard is being trained to respond to threats from weapons of mass destruction.

The 85th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team was formed Thursday from full-time Army and Air Force National Guard personnel and is stationed at the Army Aviation hangar at Airport No. 2 in West Jordan.

The new unit, with about 20 soldiers, is unusual in that it is a full-time job for the Guard members.

The primary job of the 85th is to respond to calls from civilian authorities, including the governor's office, to identify suspected chemical, radiological or biological agents, assess the danger and advise on how to respond.

The team will assist state and federal authorities by identifying specific substances and calling in highly trained personnel to deal with the substances.

"We look forward to becoming an extensive, highly visible and critical piece in Utah's WMD response force," said 85th Commander Lt. Col. Wendy Cline of the Utah Air National Guard.

The team adds additional capabilities to the civilian authorities by maintaining direct data and voice communications between agencies, providing specific subject matter expertise and conducting liaison between civilian and military authorities, Cline said.

"In the event of a WMD, the governor and state can count on us to be highly trained and capable on a no-notice, immediate basis to support Utah's first responders," Cline said. "Upon certification by the Department of Defense in June, we will become the governor's 911 WMD response force."

The team has specialized expertise and sophisticated tools to identify dangerous substances. If it identifies a dangerous substance, it will go through the governor's office and the Homeland Security Department to find the appropriate response units.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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