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Secretly Trained to Combat New Realities in War

They are an elite team of 22 National Guard officers picked to combat an invisible, yet deadly form of terror: a biological or chemical attack on US soil.

"We're supposed to save lives. Unfortunately, some people may lose their lives. A lot of people may lose their lives," said an unidentified sergeant.

They train in a secret location, their identities classified. The team has been training for the past 3 years, but has been called on only once--September 11.

This lieutenant colonel is the commander of the unit and says, " In less than 60 minutes we were wrapped up and ready to roll. For us, it was personal. This is our home."

The team arrived at the World Trade Center disaster in less than 3 hours. They determined that no chemical or biological toxins had been released--at least not this time.

What is your biggest fear?

"A biological attack on the USA. No ifs-ands-or-buts. It's worse than anything we can face in this country. It will devastate our society, devastate our medical system," said the lieutenant colonel.

CBS News was allowed inside the unit’s base to watch how the team would combat a biological or chemical attack with agents such as sarin gas, smallpox, and anthrax.

They pretend that they are in a subway and something has happened.

In this virtual simulator, these two officers find and collect a liquid that is emitting toxic vapors.

The sample is then taken to a mobile lab unit. "What we try to do is give the incident commander enough information to save lives," said the sergeant.

It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to identify the toxin.

"Based on information we received from the rest of the team, we are doing a chemical analysis," added the sergeant.

The next step is going to work notifying and assisting local authorities. But can any unit, no matter how well they are trained, contain a biological attack quickly enough to save lives? The Bush administration says yes, but this unit’s commander acknowledges that it would be a tough enemy to neutralize.

Those people who say millions are going to die anyway in a biological attack--can you assure them that that won't be the case?

"I can never assure them of that. But I can assure them, I can say we can mitigate and we can keep the numbers a low as possible," said the lieutenant colonel.

There are nine teams trained and ready right now. The National Guard is planning for 23 more and may eventually have one in every state.
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