RIETI, Italy - Chemical paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, trained with Italian army allies here Aug. 31 through Sept. 4, 2015, as part of Exercise Toxic Dragon, a bilateral exercise designed to increase interoperability between the two forces' chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense capabilities.

The training, held at the Italian army NBC Defense School, hosted by the Italian 7th NBC Defense Regiment, and focused on mask confidence training, low-level radiation and tactical decontamination as well as technical escort and confined space operations - allowing members of the 173rd's dismounted reconnaissance platoon to improve on the mastery of their craft.

This exercise utilized the crawl-walk-run training concept, designed to increase individual CBRN tasks gradually and increase the brigade's overall proficiency.

"This process is an effective method of training to standard - It produces well-trained Soldiers, leaders, and units," said U.S. Sgt. Ryan Fowler, a CBRN sampling team leader. "This exercise was extremely important for the platoon because it gives our paratroopers the opportunity to participate in hands-on training."

The specialized CBRN defense range is used by the Italian army to prepare its troops and to make use of realistic training scenarios, and is available to allied troops.

During the training, the Italian NBC unit compared their training with the American's.

"Cooperative training is an important opportunity for our professional growth," said Italian Capt. Luigi di Rauso, CBRN company commander.

During the weeklong exercise, the combined troops cross-trained on CBRN equipment and tactics, techniques and procedures. The exercise finished two culminating exercises, consisting of a mock-up contaminated subway station and an underground tunnel system with a clandestine laboratory.

"The training required Soldiers to think logically as they faced real-world scenarios," said Italian 1st Lt. Luca Meo, a CBRN platoon leader. "Facing CBRN troubles is often difficult, this kind of training helps Soldiers be able to deal with it. I hope that this combined exercise is the first of many to come."

The Americans were equally pleased with the combined training.

"I was very impressed with the realistic training scenarios and the CBRN knowledge and professionalism of our hosts at the NBC Defense School," said U.S. Sgt. Bobby Horton, a CBRN squad leader. "By integrating with the Italian forces, it provided a great experience."

The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Force in Europe, providing ready forces anywhere in the U.S., European, Africa and Central Commands areas of responsibility within 18 hours.