National Guard protecting the 12th Man at Seahawk games
SEATTLE - Long before the vendors fire up their grills, before the seats of CenturyLink Field begin to fill up with screaming fans or before the Seahawks take the field on Sunday in Seattle, two Washington National Guardsmen are busy preparing to keep the crowd of more than 67,000 fans safe.
The two guardsmen are with the 10th Civil Support Team (CST) located at Camp Murray. At every Seahawk home game, their mission is to augment the Seattle Police Department (SPD) in their effort to detect any trace or evidence of chemical weapons and hazards, essentially weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Army Sergeant Daniel Jones and Air Force Staff Sergeant Logan Ingersoll left Camp Murray at 7 a.m. in their survey truck, a blue box truck equipped with shelves and cubbyholes filled with chemical detection hardware and personal protective equipment.
They met up with their SPD counterparts and immediately began to place monitors around the stadium at key locations. The monitors are a medium-sized black box equipped with a three foot antenna that extends from the top. The monitors are placed out of view in areas that circle the stadium.
"What we're looking for is different chemical compounds and even radiological isotopes," said Jones. "If we get an alarm, we will send what we call an adjudication team. If we ever got any positive hit from the team, we would notify our chain of command for follow-on resources for higher degrees of threat identification."
The monitors also sense oxygen levels, volatile organic compounds and are also capable of detecting most types of explosive gases.
The CST has been doing various venue protection missions in a limited capacity since the team's inception in 1999. Thankfully, no WMDs have been detected by the CST during a venue protection mission to date, however, the threat is all too real.
"But this mission at CenturyLink has been happening, in the capacity that it's happening now, since about 2012," said Jones. "We have been building the relationship long before that, but the Boston Marathon (bombing) was probably the thing that made this have as much momentum as it has now."
He said that they used to only perform this mission in Seattle during large-scale games and events such as a playoff game or a game which would draw an abnormally large number of people. But, since the Boston Marathon bombing, authorities realized that every Seahawk game is a potential target.
Even though no WMDs or smaller scale weapons have been detected yet, there are circumstances where the alarm may be tripped and a little bit of detective work is required to solve. Medical patients who have recently undergone treatment with radiological imaging will often times set off the monitors.
"Some of the local kitchens will vent off in areas and they set off the [carbon monoxide] alarm," Jones said. "We've gotten a lot of carbon monoxide hits, few oxygen hits, but nothing malicious."
The more the 10th CST takes a proactive stance on missions like these, as opposed to reacting to an event that has already happened, the better prepared they will be when an actual incident does happen.
"That's why we have people already on the ground, people that know the area, that know the threat,” he added.