More than 50 Soldiers and civilians received first-hand information about a one-of-a-kind Army unit during their onboarding briefings Aug. 24 at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Leaders from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command briefed new teammates who had arrived during the summer rotation season.
"I need each of you to understand both our multiple, and varied, missions as well as where you fit to accomplish those missions," said Col. Adam Hilburgh, chief of staff from New York City. "We are a relatively new command and our missions are significant. We have responsibilities in the United States as well as overseas, and each of us plays a critical role."
After the attacks on 9/11, there was no single Army command to respond to CBRN or explosive ordnance threats. In 2003, there was no Army unit available with the organized expertise to identify and exploit potential weapons of mass destruction in the U.S. Central Command area of operations. The 20th CBRNE Command was formed to respond to these critical mission requirements.
Created on October 16, 2004, the command headquarters, which has mission command responsibility for 85 percent of the active Army's explosive ordnance disposal and CBRN units, is located on Aberdeen Proving Ground in northeast Maryland. The command's approximately 4,000 Soldiers and civilians are posted across 16 states on 19 installations.
The major subordinate commands are the 52nd Ordnance Group, which is located at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and has mission command of all EOD units east of the Mississippi River; the 71st Ordnance Group, headquartered at Fort Carson, Colorado, which has mission command of all EOD units west of the Mississippi; and the command's largest unit, the 48th Chemical Brigade, located at Fort Hood, Texas, which is the only chemical brigade in the Army.
Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Graham, a native of Warren, Ohio, welcomed the new Soldiers and emphasized the importance of Army and unit standards. "Physical fitness is the cornerstone of combat readiness. Noncommissioned officers, I expect you to enforce and uphold standards. Counsel your young Soldiers every month."
To the younger Soldiers, Graham suggested that they listen to the leadership first but always be on time, at the right place, in the right uniform and with the right attitude.
"Don't forget to write home to inform family and friends about your excitement for being assigned to the best unit in the U.S. Army. My door is always open if you need to chat."
"Going through the onboarding event gave me a good understanding and appreciation of the history, mission, and organizations of the command," said Lt. Col. Terrell Jones, command chaplain from Birmingham, Alabama. "I appreciated Command Sgt. Maj. Graham sharing his guidance, expectations and CBRNE standards because we are constantly deploying to participate in missions around the world."
The leaders highlighted the command's motto of "Liberty We Defend," and how it influences every mission. In addition, new teammates learned about the enduring priorities as established by the commanding general, Brig. Gen. James Bonner: readiness; integrating with maneuver and special operations forces; leader development; care for Soldiers, leaders, and families; and inform the future force.
"The onboarding briefings were very informative and I was surprised at the breadth of missions in the 20th," said Jason Sullivan, safety office intern from Raeford, North Carolina.
Unique mission activities in the command abound. The briefings pointed out that there are EOD Soldiers who are jump-qualified and provide support to special operations forces; civilian scientists who analyze dangerous substances to support Soldier safety in deployed situations; EOD Soldiers who provide event support for the U.S. Secret Service; Soldiers with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training who can enter any building or area and identify suspected hazardous materials and equipment; a specialized civilian technical and aviation team who are authorized to carry guns while transporting lethal chemicals; Soldiers who are now supporting counter improvised explosive device missions in the Middle East and Africa; and nuclear specialists trained to collect ground samples, for analysis and to support the FBI, following a nuclear explosion, and more.
Command staff experts updated the new hires on ethics, knowledge management, resources, force modernization, communications, battle rhythm and special staff duties. The command plans to conduct the onboarding briefings on a quarterly basis.
"There is no other Army command that can do what you do. Our missions are vital to the Army and national security, and you are important," emphasized Hilburgh.