Brig. Gen. William E. King IV, commander, 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives Command, recently witnessed the operational support his Soldiers are providing to Operation Inherent Resolve.
The mission for Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve is to militarily defeat the Islamic State in order to enable national governmental actions to increase regional stability.
For the 20th CBRNE Command, the Soldiers and equipment are known as Task Force Atlas with a daily goal to counter the threat from several kinds of IEDs. They do this in two ways: they employ their training and expertise to support military operations, and provide training and guidance to increase the capability of Iraqi forces as they carry the fight to the Islamic State.
"We have clearly seen the intelligence indicators and precursors for Counter Improvised Explosive Devices and their threat is very closely linked and in many cases indistinguishable from those of CWMD. It makes perfect sense for our integrated EOD and CBRN units and capabilities to task organize and team together to defeat these common threats as one seamless force capability, thus Task Force Atlas is a CBRNE Brigade Task Force comprised of 71st EOD Group and CBRNE Coordination Element," King said.
Task Force Atlas works in conjunction with coalition partners and allied forces to counter IED and chemical weapons operational efforts through analysis, target development, and exploitation. In addition, they provide training to forces in Iraq to disrupt and degrade IED and chemical weapons threats. TF Atlas is comprised of Soldiers from the 71st Explosive Ordnance Group, Fort Carson, Colorado, as well as CBRNE Coordination Element 2 from the 20th CBRNE Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
Specialized units and Soldiers from the 355th CBRN Company and the 741st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, stationed at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, are bringing their unique expertise to support operations by the United States and its allies for Operation Spartan Shield.
OSS supports regional partners with operational missions, bilateral, multilateral military exercises and theater security cooperation activities in the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility.
Using the small-team concept, these Soldiers are aiding operations for both U.S. and Iraqi efforts to find and defeat threats from improvised explosive devices as well as other CBRN threats.
"Until recently, soldiers perceived explosive hazards as having the most threat to them. However, as we have seen, ISIS is dedicated to creating and using CBRN weapons against civilian and military targets," King said.
"We have EOD and CBRN Soldiers spread across the entire OIR theater of operations to protect our soldiers, allies and partners from these threats. The days of hand waving this threat is gone, it is here and it is real. And our CBRNE soldiers are combating this threat every day to ensure the safety and security of our forces," King said.
King, and the 20th CBRNE's command sergeant major Kenneth Graham, senior enlisted advisor, visited the CBRN Analytical and Remediation Activity mobile laboratory, known as CARA. This team identifies, confirms and provides analysis on CBRN hazards.
"Not many people know about CARA, it has a unique and highly specialized capability. These Army civilian-scientists' lab work is critical for the commander of OIR. Their results provide the commander with information to make timely decisions and assist him and his staff in the planning of missions to counter the CBRNE threat in their area of operations," King said.
"They epitomize the Creed of the Army Civilian Corps. Day in and day out, they are executing this critical mission with state of the art equipment and outstanding technical competence. They help confirm or deny the type and lethality of CBRN hazards on the battlefield by providing critical CBRN intelligence to the OIR commander," said Graham.
"I cannot be more proud of the Counter-IED and WMD missions and training our Soldiers and leaders are executing in both Iraq and Kuwait. The CG and I are very proud of their efforts, and they should take pride in knowing that they are making a huge difference towards the stability of Iraq and the security of its people," said Graham.
In Iraq, King and Graham visited the 49th and 744th EOD Companies near Baghdad and in Erbil as well as the Kurdish Training Coordination Center.
"For the last sixteen years in Afghanistan and Iraq, our EOD Soldiers have become the standard bearers in combating explosive hazard threats," said King. "While we still integrate into maneuver forces to protect the U.S., allies, and partners here, we are working with our partners to develop their capabilities. In today's battlefield, we do not have the capacity to be everywhere, and that is why it is critical we build other's capabilities to ensure they can provide support when required."
"From Camp Arifjan in Kuwait to the Kurdish Training Coordination Center in Erbil, our Soldiers and civilians are doing an amazingly wide variety of things in the CBRNE field to support OIR's efforts to tackle the threats across the entire CBRNE spectrum," said King. "The United States has learned its lessons from the initial years in Iraq. What commanders there are seeing is a look at the future where the 20th CBRNE Command can provide a single commander to handle the CBRNE threat at the theater level and at the tactical level, our CBRN and EOD soldiers are integrating into maneuver formations to defeat CBRN and explosive hazards," King added.
With units on 19 posts in 16 states, the Aberdeen Proving Ground-based 20th CBRNE Command is the Defense Department's only multifunctional formation that combats global chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats. The one-of-a-kind command trains with joint, interagency and allied partners around the world.