By Guy Volb, NTC/Fort Irwin Public Affairs and 20th CBRNE Public AffairsJune 26, 2014
FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- The 20th CBRNE Command continued its quest toward seamless integration with deployed units during exercises held at the National Training Center here June 23.
The 20th CBRNE Command provides trained forces capable of exercising command and control of specialized CBRNE operations.
They support Joint and Army force commanders primarily for overseas contingencies and warfighting operations, but also in support of homeland defense.
Their most recent trek into the Mojave Desert brought with them several firsts as they continued to build upon relationships. Their Heavy Mobile Expeditionary Lab, Nuclear Disablement Team and Defense Forensic Science Center made their first appearance at a Combat Training Center.
During the exercise, the units involved tackled conventional, irregular and hybrid enemy threats and located, identified and eliminated enemy threat systems and capabilities, including explosive and unconventional improvised explosive devices and Weapons of Mass Destruction.
The many "faces" of the 20th CBRNE helped units in a myriad of extremely detailed exercises testing their capability to recognize and respond to chemical attacks and the discovery of nuclear processing facilities, as well as provide general support such as forensic analysis -- among others.
Ballistic Missile Strike
Following a loud explosion, a mushroom cloud of fire, smoke erupts signaling a simulated chemical release. Members of the 110th Chemical Battalion, or Tech Escort, were to be used in determining the extent of contamination, casualties and provide analysis commanders could use to plan further action.
According to Maj. Ryan Ferrell, with the 20th CBRNE Command, evaluators wanted to see those responding approach from up wind so as not to become a victim themselves and carry out the type of sampling and additional information gathering of use to leadership.
"For every chemical agent out there, there's a counter agent," said Mike Mednansky, a prime contributor to the realism behind such scenarios from FORSCOM CI2C. "Once they figure out what they're working with they can determine the right counter agent."
That's an important aspect according to Mednansky, since some counter agents are dangerous if used on other chemicals.
Ferrell said the National Training Center "provides the perfect mix of personnel, resources and environment" to carry out such detailed scenarios.
"Units rotating through the NTC receive specialized training they simply can't get anywhere else," he said. "And they do it while exercising with CBRNE units now."
Heavy Mobile Expeditionary Lab
A first at any Combat Training Center, the Heavy Mobile Expeditionary Lab brings capability to units in theater when previously they'd have to reach back to the states for help.
CBRNE's Analytical and Remediation Activity Mobile Expeditionary Laboratory (CARA MEL) deploys scientists to perform high-through put chemical, explosives, and biological sample analysis to support Department of Defense combatant commanders, military installations, and support to U.S. civil authorities if requested.
CARA has three mobile lab packages of which the Heavy Mobile Expeditionary Lab is one. The HMEL deploys to support Weapons of Mass Destruction elimination and remediation efforts in a forward deployed area.
"We detect chemical warfare agents, biological warfare agents, analyze for possible explosives, and provide metal analysis," said Keith Beigel, with the 20th CBRNE Command's CARA Mobile Lab Analytical Remediation Activity.
Beigel, a 32-year-old microbiologist, continued: "If I got a positive result here, we'd ship it back to the states to the CDC -- we're a theater validation laboratory."
"We provide combatant commanders the necessary information to act smartly," said Earl Austin, supervisory chemist with the lab. By training with regular Army units, we're introducing our capabilities to them, letting them know we're available to support them and that we're a valuable asset."
Nuclear Disablement Team
With four different sub divisions to include an Initial Entry Team, Characterization Team, Health Physicists Team, and Operations Team the NDT engages when and where nuclear components or products are found.
As part of their training here the scenario called for an area to be taken by friendly forces who, later, determined the possibility of a nuclear facility being included.
According to Lt. Col. Gerg Isbill, NDT chief, the components of the team were to make entry, determine possible hazards, mitigate them and work their way through the process of disabling the facility. Then they were to secure the building to ensure it couldn't be used again.
Such scenarios are made even more difficult given the three-digit heat Soldiers suited up in to enter the "nuclear processing facility."
"They'll disable the facility to the point it can't be used for clandestine or extra-government operations," said Isbill. "They cease the process, secure any high-enriched uranium, and secure the entire building to make sure it won't be used again -- while gathering useful intelligence as well."
Together, the many faces of the 20th CBRNE Command continue to work closely with their Army team mates, with both gaining insight into the others capability during each rotation, each exercise among the rock, dirt and heat of Fort Irwin's National Training Center.