MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin National Guard’s 54th Civil Support Team (CST) — a specialized unit of full-time Army and Air National Guard members trained to respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear emergencies — is the 2020 Maj. Gen. William L. Sibert Award winner for the National Guard.
The award, named after the World War I officer considered to be the father of the U.S. Army’s chemical corps, recognizes excellence in mission readiness. Award recipients represent the highest standards in training, maintenance, safety and organizational excellence.
According to 1st Sgt. Ken Prieur, the 54th CST’s senior enlisted leader, this is the first year civil support teams were eligible for the award. The other award recipients this year — three for the active Army and one for the Army Reserve — include two companies, one battalion and a brigade.
“It requires each team member to exceed the standard in all areas that are reviewed,” Prieur explained. “Each member of our team represents about five percent of our force, so if just one Soldier or Airman is not at the top of their game, it really shows.”
Training evaluators looked at the unit’s individual training, structured self-development, collective training and mission execution. Maintenance evaluators looked at the unit’s equipment status, inspections and awards. Safety evaluators inspected the unit’s safety record and awards. Organizational excellence evaluators examined individual and unit awards, administrative inspections, medical readiness, family readiness group activities, and volunteer recognition.
“I think the size disparity between us and the other candidates really shows how impressive the 54th CST really is, and what you can accomplish with only 22 people,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tammy Rueth, the team operations noncommissioned officer.
Staff Sgt. Levi Parker, the 54th CST’s survey team chief, said the team’s size offered advantages and disadvantages.
“Having fewer [members] is advantageous in the sense that we only have 22 personnel that need to excel,” Parker said. “The more difficult part is that we have our positions on the team, plus the typical company-level additional duties that need to be maintained and balanced between 22 people. We have the same amount, if not more equipment than a company-sized element that needs to be maintained. We have the standard Army inspections plus our specialized inspections to allow us to respond and work with our partners. It can be a lot to balance.”
Rueth said the Sibert Award demonstrated the team’s dedication and discipline.
“Every team member and area of expertise contributed to this award,” she said. “In the four years I have been on the team, [we] have always held and demanded the highest standard. This year we have been recognized for all our hard work.”
Parker said the 54th CST has worked hard to create a culture of excellence.
“Every single Soldier and Airman that comes onto this team excels because they love what they do and they want to be here,” Parker said. “You really have to perform well at all times for something like this.”
“I have been on the team for quite a while, and I often brag about being able to come to work each day with the absolute best Airmen and Soldiers that the Wisconsin National Guard has to offer,” Prieur said. “I am proud that our team was chosen as this year’s winner for the National Guard component, and while it is a great accomplishment for us, it also shines a spotlight on the CST program as a whole.”
The Sibert Award also allows the 54th CST to attach a streamer to its unit flag. Units that deploy to combat zones can attach campaign streamers to their flags, but while civil support teams can deploy to other states, they do not deploy overseas. The Sibert Award streamer will join the Army Safety Excellence streamer, received last September.
The 54th CST is the Wisconsin National Guard's full-time response team for emergencies or terrorist events that involve weapons of mass destruction, toxic industrial chemicals or natural disasters. The unit, based in Madison, Wisconsin, is designed to rapidly deploy, assist local first-responders in determining the nature of an attack or hazardous materials scenario, and provide medical, communications, technical support and advice.