Gary Airport to House Anti-Terror Team

GARY, Ind. -- A new National Guard anti-terrorism center planned for Gary's airport will be equipped with sophisticated weapon-sniffing devices and a fleet of new Blackhawk helicopters for medical evacuations.

The $25 million federally funded project at Gary/Chicago International Airport is intended to bolster homeland security. Among other things, it will have improved Chemical Agent Monitors, mass spectrometers, and space suit-like protective gear with self-contained breathing apparatus.

Dozens of these high-tech devices, along with a 22-man Army National Guard team trained to use the gadgets in the fight against terror, will take their place on the same Gary airfield now used by Hooters Air and Southeast Airlines.

A second team of Guard members will man five new state-of-the-art Blackhawk helicopters designed especially for medical evacuation.

The Times of Munster reported Sunday that the new Indiana Army National Guard aviation center is scheduled to be completed by 2007.

It will house the new 22-member Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, more than 200 other guard members, the medical evacuation team and a meteorology center to help predict weather for military flight missions.

The mission of the two National Guard teams will be to protect air travelers and anyone else in northwestern Indiana's region in cases of biological or chemical terrorist attacks, natural disasters or other mass medical emergencies.

It will mirror 32 other guard groups stationed across the country, each manned by 22 specially trained members.

U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and other Indiana lawmakers were able to secure funding for the aviation center and the team because of the large population in northwest Indiana, its resources _ namely, the steel industry _ and its proximity to Chicago, Bayh's office said.

Although it will be based in Gary, the team will have the capability to respond to terrorist attacks and other hazards anywhere in the state or region, said Meg Keck, a spokeswoman for Bayh's office.

All teams are under control of the governors in their respective states.

With the task comes a plethora of high-tech tools to get the job done.

Government Web sites detail a long list of devices used to detect toxic chemicals, gasses, radiation and biological agents such as Anthrax.

Each team member also is trained to identify and neutralize more than 150,000 different substances commonly used in chemical warfare that are solid, liquid and vapor, the U.S Department of Defense reports.

Indiana Army National Guard spokeswoman, Capt. Lisa Kopczynski, said some members of the team already have been certified and are ready to respond from Indianapolis.