By Sgt. Harley Jelis, 138th Public Affairs Detachment, New York Army National Guard November 23, 2016
BRONX, N.Y. - It looked like a scene from a science fiction thriller, here on Saturday. Nov. 19, as 90 New York Army National Guard Soldiers and eight New York police officers in chemical suits deployed high-tech detection equipment and wheeled victims on gurneys into a decontamination station.
Soldiers from the 222nd Chemical Company sharpened their skills and exchanged lessons learned with cops from the New York Police Department's Chemical, Ordinance, Biological and Radiological Awareness (COBRA) training team during a day-long exercise at the police department's tactical training village on Rodman's Neck.
Fifty cadets at the New York City Police academy played victim as the Soldiers and the police officers practiced their ability to locate victims of a chemical attack and decontaminate them efficiently.
"The objective was to conduct a joint exercise with civilians, domestic forces and the Army, and work to understand each other's techniques," said Capt. Lawanda Billings, commander of the 222nd Chemical Co.
"If we do have to respond to any type of hazardous material or [chemical] attack, we'll know what they provide and they'll know what we can do, she said.
The 222nd is the decontamination component of the Homeland Response Force charged with responding to incidents in the Federal Emergency Management Agencies Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey.
The company trains regularly on that skill with other military units and has worked with first responders in upstate New York and New Jersey, Billings said. This exercise was a chance to work with the New York City police officers who train other cops on how to cope with chemical and biological and hazardous materials incidents.
For Police Officer Samantha Sonnett, a member of the COBRA training unit, being able to see the 222nd in action helped her understand how the Guard's capabilities can mesh with those of the police department.
"We wanted to see a mass casualty set up," Sonnett said.
"If we have a major event where you have hundreds or thousands of victims, we need to get those people cleaned off and to medical attention as fast as we can. We don't do anything like that within our department," she added.
The 54 acre facility on Rodman's Neck in the Bronx is the New York Police Department's main tactical training facility. The facility houses a typical city block and an urban landscape used for tactical training exercises as well as a firing range.
The New York National Guard's 1st Battalion 69th Infantry has also conducted tactical training at the facility.
"One of the things that stood out to [the police team] is how we track and monitor casualties," Billlings said.
"Whether that's how many casualties came through, or if we need a refuel in suits or not. On a large scale it was an eye opener on the amount of things we have to track on a company level," she added.
For the 222nd this training event provided another opportunity to exercise the unit's new Soldiers.
"It's totally new for our soldiers out of basic training," Billings explained.
Training with the Homeland Response Force, and working in a joint military and civilian environment, has taught the 222nd Soldiers decontamination techniques that aren't taught chemical Soldiers in training, Billings said.
"Working with some of the equipment that we have that is different - that's not something they would have learned in their job school," Billing added.
Training with the New York City police officers was a great opportunity for her troops, Billings said.
"This is the first time something like this has been done and something we look forward to building upon it in the future," she added.