ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The 22nd Chemical Battalion, in conjunction with the 48th Chemical Brigade, recently conducted a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive ordnance disposal response team validation exercise Feb.1 to March 2 at Fort Bliss, Texas and Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
The purpose of the training was to validate the current training procedures and readiness posture of the CRTs, said Col. Chris Hoffman, commander, 48th Chemical Brigade.
The 46th Chemical Company from Fort Bliss, the 68th out of Fort Hood, 9th and 11th Chemical Companies from Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, took part in the training.
The teams were comprised of CBRN and EOD specialists. Working from information based on a given scenario, each team was expected to perform tasks in troop leading procedures; conducting information collection; surveillance and reconnaissance of CBRN and EOD threats; performing decontamination procedures, EOD operations, personnel rescue and treatment, analytical operations and confined space operations in order to meet CRT certification standards.
"CRTs collect information, mitigate hazards and assist in the elimination of CBRN weapons," said Maj. Chad Baker, operations officer for the 48th Chemical Brigade.
The teams work through their procedures to ensure the safety of their teammates, collect intelligence, ensure chain of custody, and take the proper actions on site while being monitored by subject matter experts.
An observer/controller/trainer, or O/C/T, was assigned to each team as they worked through their targets. These seasoned CBRN and EOD response experts monitored and provided coaching to their assigned CRT throughout the exercise, "interjecting only if they see behavior or procedures that could create mission failure," said Baker, who served as the higher command/higher controller during the validation exercise.
"They also conduct a hot wash with their team after each training mission to review what they observed during the mission and point out areas where improvements can be made," he said. "They also let battalion commander's know where their teams need to improve or what they did well."
The CRT validation training normally takes place twice a year but could happen more frequently depending on operational tempo, according to Capt. Michael Lindsey, company commander for the 9th Chemical Company at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Lindsey said CRTs follow a normal training strategy that builds up to the certification exercise. The exercise that took place in El Paso and Kirtland signifies a point in training where soldiers can be evaluated on their team's ability to do most of their required tasks.
This was the first time this training was conducted in two separate locations.
"Rotating between the two locations, Fort Bliss and Kirtland, can have an impact on the training," said Lindsey. "Giving teams from different duty stations an opportunity to come together and train on their essential tasks is very beneficial."
The opportunity for new and seasoned team members to work together is another reason for the training.
"This is a better environment because there is no complacency - it's all new," said Master Sgt. Tito Parra, referring to training in El Paso and Kirtland. Parra is a senior member of the 9th Chemical Company and CRT 3. "We're used to doing training at JBLM. This is more unknown and I think it improves training overall."
The CRT 3 team leader, 1st Lt. Creste Jean, agreed with Parra.
"All training is good training," said Jean who joined the team just one month prior to the exercise. "But what I found to be most beneficial was being able work with my team at different sites from start to finish."
The validation exercise was a chance for leadership to observe the CRTs operating in an unfamiliar environment, which made the training more realistic.
"The training exercise was a critical step in validating the tactics, techniques and procedures and ensuring the competence of all our CRTs across the brigade," said Hoffman. "I was very pleased with the training and am confident that our Soldiers are prepared to conduct their tasks if called upon by the Army and Nation to do so."