The 20th CBRNE Command’s Nuclear Disablement Team 3 (NDT-3) strengthened their deployment readiness in September during an exercise to a nuclear facility at Penn State University.
Maj. Mark Quint, team leader, emphasized the primary purpose of the exercise. “NDT-3 wanted to test the deployment readiness of our team with a limited notice Deployment Readiness Exercise. In order to test the breadth of our assigned tasks, our event encompassed deployment to a site with nuclear infrastructure, characterization of a unique nuclear facility, communication with our higher headquarters (20th CBRNE), and redeployment of Soldiers and equipment back to home station.”
A planned Air Force C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlift from Dover AFB, Delaware, for the 13 Soldiers, civilians and vehicles was canceled due to a higher priority mission so the team adapted to ground transportation for the seven hour trek from Aberdeen Proving Ground to State College in north central Pennsylvania. The trip details included short-notice vehicle availability, convoy communications, and forecasted weather conditions.
While at Penn State University, the team established a command post adjacent to the Breazeale Nuclear Reactor. NDT-3 treated the reactor and its infrastructure as an unknown, with the expressed mission of entering the facility (in personal protective equipment), observing equipment inside, taking measurements, and report findings to higher headquarters.
NDT-3 organized initial entry and characterization teams, each carrying radiation and chemical detectors as well as wearing self-contained breathing apparatus (SBCA). Given the weight of the Level A equipment, 70 degree weather, and the SCBA, each team had 30 to 45 minutes to observe a portion of the building and record as much critical information as possible. Once all teams reported their findings, Dr. Kenan Ünlü, PSU’s Radiation Science and Engineering Center director, and Dr. Jeffery Geuther, associate director, provided a facility tour, confirmed the findings, and provided additional facility information.
The initial analysis highlighted mission success with NDT-3 demonstrating that they, and the 20th CBRNE Command, are prepared to conduct a limited notice deployment.
A nuclear disablement team has a very unique and highly technical mission. The team can rapidly and efficiently exploit and disable nuclear or radiological weapons of mass destruction (WMD) infrastructure and components, in an overseas environment, to deny near-term capability or reuse by enemy forces and facilitate follow-on WMD elimination operations.
The U.S. Army only maintains three NDTs capable of carrying out this mission, and all three are assigned to the 20th CBRNE Command.
“The abilities of our team were tested in each step,” noted Quint, “and with this experience, we are now better prepared to support the needs of combatant commanders worldwide.”