BURBANK, Calif. - Soldiers from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command's Ground Collection Team deployed with the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Ground Collections Task Force (NTNF GCTF) as part of Exercise Prominent Hunt 18-1 conducted in Los Angeles and Burbank, California, April 16-20.
The Ground Collection Team consisted of Soldiers from the command's Nuclear Disablement Team 1 out of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and the 51st Chemical Company Hazardous Response Platoon out of Fort Stewart, Georgia.
The NTNF GCTF is comprised of operational components from the Department of Justice/ Federal Bureau of Investigation (DOJ/FBI), Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA), and the Department of Defense (DOD). Each component is assigned with specific roles and responsibilities to capitalize on the strengths of their respective agencies.
The multi-agency exercise is part of a series of regularly scheduled biannual training exercises of the U.S government's NTNF GCTF that have been conducted since 2012. It provides the NTNF GCTF an opportunity to practice and enhance their operational response readiness in the event of a terrorist initiated nuclear detonation anywhere in the United States or abroad. It also allows for evaluation of the Ground Collection Team and the NTNF GCTF's capability to efficiently mobilize, deploy, plan, collect material and debris samples, and process and prepare those samples for transport to designated analytical laboratories in a post detonation environment - in addition to operating and coordinating with other state and federal agencies.
According to Lt. Col. Dave Morrow, Nuclear Disablement Team Chief, 20th CBRNE Command and exercise director, Prominent Hunt not only provides training and validation for the Army team that is assuming the mission, but it also gives the team an opportunity to work hand in hand with local, state, and federal civilian agencies, which is not a regular part of their training.
"It is only in Prominent Hunt where every six months we bring the interagency team together and practice in the field, in a neutral location away from everybody's home station and go through all the activities the task force will have to do upon actual deployment," said the Rochester, New York native.
This proved to be true for Spc. Charles Babcock, a CBRN Soldier with the 51st Chemical Company.
"This is the second task force that I've been a part of but it's also the first where I've had the opportunity to work with civilian agencies other than DOD," said Babcock. "It really shows how big of a deal this is," he said referring to working with such high level agencies.
Babcock found training in the highly populated Burbank area to be beneficial. "It really hits home when we train in a civilian environment with so many people around. It opens up the picture," said the Omaha, Neb., native.
There were three main factors that played into choosing the Burbank and Los Angeles areas for the first iteration of Prominent Hunt, said Morrow. One was the mountainous terrain located next to the exercise's forward operating base at Hollywood Burbank Airport and the requirement to communicate relatively long distances in such rugged terrain.
"The other was the urbanization, the high population density, and a lot of vehicular traffic - which is probably what we would have to deal with in an urban environment," Morrow said.
Overall, Prominent Hunt 18-1 was a resounding success, said Morrow and he attributed a lot of that back to the coordination and cooperation between the local, state and federal partners.
"The most important thing we do here in Prominent Hunt is exercise the capabilities of the interagency task force. It's a matter of bringing together our partners from FBI, DOE, as well as various Army units. Each department and agency brings something different and that is vital to mission success."
Exercise Prominent Hunt 18-1 was conducted in coordination with the 244th Aviation Brigade/Army Reserve Command (ARAC), Domestic Nuclear Defense Office (DNDO), California State and local law enforcement, fire, emergency management, and public health agencies, as well as the California National Guard 9th WMD Civil Support Team and Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu.