Cobalt Dragon prepares unit for threat
December 15, 2011
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- The ever-present threat of without warning disasters and terrorist attacks necessitates the need for qualified Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear specialists to always be prepared to protect U.S. national interests. One such capability is the 773rd Civil Support Team, 7th Civil Support Command, who put their expertise to the test during exercise Cobalt Dragon here at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, Dec 5-9.
Because time is of the essence when a CBRN-type incident occurs, unit training and readiness are essential. Cobalt Dragon, which is a joint, interagency exercise focusing on survey, decontamination, and analytical operations, combines the unique capabilities of various units and agencies. In addition to the 773rd CST, the Emergency Medical Assistance Team, the 12th Chemical Company Reconnaissance Team, and members of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency combined to form Strike Team Dragon.
The exercise not only provided an opportunity for the 12th Chem. Co. Recon Team and 773rd CST a chance to work together, but also to standardize procedures. The exercise also serves another purpose in ensuring that U.S. Army Europe maintains an important CBRN capability even as the EMAT transfers its CBRN responsibilities to the 773rd CST.
"Standardizing all surveying operation procedures and training on specialized equipment for decontamination gives us the ability to do site-characterization analysis of the agent, which helps the incident commander and the host nation leadership make informed decisions on which course of action to take," said Sgt. 1st Class Jay C. Drucas, the 773rd CST operations non-commissioned officer.
Cobalt Dragon tested the Soldiers reaction to a scenario where terrorist release a chemical into the air during a holiday party. Strike Team Dragon quickly suited up and began surveying the office building to locate the source of the threat. Discretely hidden in a chest cooler was a simulated chemical bomb.
To experience first-hand the mission of the 773rd CST, Brig. Gen Mark S. Hendrix, the commanding general of the 7th CSC, took part in the exercise as a survey operations team member. While he and his two team members surveyed the contaminated site, Hendrix became a casualty. This presented another training opportunity for the 773rd CST team; evacuate a casualty from a dangerous contaminated site. The exercise observer/controllers instructed Hendrix to simulate a leg injury. This adds a degree of complexity to the scenario by requiring the team to evacuate an immobile casualty.
The hazardous material suit along with the oxygen tank weighs approximately 70 pounds. Within seconds, Hendrix's team members realized that he was down and immediately called for backup. Within a matter of minutes, two more team members had Hendrix on a gurney and raced him to the decontamination tent. After Hendrix was decontaminated, a medical crew opened the suit and pulled off all the gear while checking to make sure Hendrix was breathing. Fortunately, he was.
"The Soldiers who wear the suit have my respect and admiration," said Hendrix. "It is nice to know we have the best equipment for our Soldiers."
"Soldiers of the 773rd CST and 12th Chem. Co. Recon Team do what New York City firefighters did on 9/11 and that is run into a danger that everyone else is running away from," said Hendrix. "This is a new skill set and a new mission for U.S. Army Europe and we are very fortunate to have these officers, noncommissioned officers, and Soldiers."