By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Members of an elite anti-terror unit from Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton Army Base were deployed to Boston to assist in the recovery effort following the horrific April 15 bombing, a lawmaker has revealed.
US Rep. Michael Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) said members of the 24th National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Defense Team went to Boston after the bombing.
“The 24th National Guard WMD-CST team has done exceptional job, not just in New York, but also in Boston where they were on the ground responding to the horrific attack on the marathon,” Grimm said on April 16.
Grimm also announced that the unit, which had been in danger of being disbanded by the Defense Department, would remain intact.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who just two weeks ago reiterated his decision to shut down civil support teams at two military bases, including Fort Hamilton, suddenly reversed course, telling a House subcommittee on Tuesday that he would support keeping the units intact.
Grimm, in whose congressional district Fort Hamilton is located, declared victory in his fight to keep the unit up and running at the fort.
“I am pleased that the secretary heard our cries and realized the crucial role Fort Hamilton’s WMD-CST plays in response and security efforts. Secretary Hagel’s statements before the committee have given us assurance that Fort Hamilton’s WMD-CST will remain intact and funded,” Grimm said.
On March 29, the Department of Defense sent a letter to congress expressing its intent to disband two civil support teams, one in New York and one in Florida. Grimm, working with US senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, fought the decision. “It seems each year we have to go to war to save Fort Hamilton’s WMD-CST. After, once again, securing bill language to save our CST from the chopping block, we thought the battle was won, until the new defense secretary told us last month that it was not. That’s when I joined with my colleagues in the New York delegation, and we fought back,” Grimm said.
On Tuesday, during testimony before the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, the defense secretary stated that he would support the continuation of funding for the anti-terror units.
US Rep. Bill Owens (D-Watertown NY), a subcommittee member, asked Hagel about the March 29 letter at the hearing. “I have reversed the initial decision and that is why we will keepthe funding,” Hagel replied.
Globalsecurity.org reported that civil support teams were introduced in 1998 during the Clinton Administration to combat chemical and biological warfare.
Initially, 10 units were formed and assigned to various military bases around the country.
The mission of the teams is to assist state and local authorities in the event of an incident involving weapons of mass destruction.
The civil support teams are trained to determine the exact nature of an attack and to provide technical assistance and advice to local authorities. The teams include army national guard and air national guard members.
“I am so proud of their work and thrilled that they will remain at Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton,” Grimm said.