By Clemens GainesOctober 16, 2019
The 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command marks its 15th anniversary Oct. 16, and leaders will celebrate by officially opening its new headquarters Oct. 18 on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
The unit's history began in 2003, with the mission to find and eliminate Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Because there was no standing Army capability, the 75th Field Artillery Brigade was tasked to form the 75th Exploitation Task Force. Recognizing the challenges of this unit as an ad hoc organization, Headquarters, Department of the Army, directed the establishment of a single headquarters to establish unity of command for worldwide CBRNE response, initially dubbed the Guardian Brigade, then later the 20th Support Command (CBRNE).
On May 1, 2003, Lt. Gen. Richard Cody, deputy chief of staff of the Army for operations and plans, signed a memo codifying the command as the "organizational solution for an operational command to gain efficiencies, better focus, coordinate, and employ Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosives (CBRNE) response capabilities." The command was constituted on May 6, 2004, and activated on Oct 16, 2004.
Today, the 20th CBRNE Command is a highly-technical, special-purpose formation of approximately 3,800 soldiers and 225 civilians in 16 states on 19 different installations. The 20th CBRNE Command is the Army and Department of Defense's only integrated command with explosive ordnance disposal, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and lab capabilities.
Brig. Gen. James Bonner, current commander of the 20th will be joined by former commanders and other dignitaries Oct .18 to cut the ribbon on a new, $88.4 million two-building complex on Aberdeen Proving Ground. The total cost of the project includes planning, design, construction, furniture, audio/visual and physical security measures, and the two buildings have more than 186,000 square feet of space with 492 work stations.
The command continues to write its history today while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Resolute Dawn. A memorial display in the headquarters' atrium honors the sacrifice of 31 20th CBRNE Soldiers since the command's inception in 2004. The display currently includes images of the dignified transfer of Sgt. Joseph Collette, 71st Ordnance Group (EOD), at Dover Air Force Base, on March 24, 2019. In addition, images throughout the buildings highlight the missions of EOD and CBRN Soldiers and civilians.
The Oct. 18 ceremony will also christen a Pentagon Memorial in front of the new headquarters. The inscription, carved into the granite base, reads:
"The 20th CBRNE Command dedicates this memorial to those who lost their lives in the attacks on September 11, 2001. This surviving piece of limestone symbolizes the strength of our will. LIBERTY WE DEFEND!"