IDAHO NATIONAL LABORATORY, Idaho – Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Nuclear Disablement Teams participated in the Nuclear Infrastructure, Assessment and Disablement Course at the Idaho National Laboratory, Sept. 13 - 24.
Members of the one-of-a-kind teams completed the 10-day course that provides training for their high stakes profession.
The U.S. Army’s three NDTs are part of the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command. Soldiers and civilians from the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland-headquartered 20th CBRNE Command confront and defeat the world’s most dangerous weapons and hazards to enable military operations and support civil authorities.
In addition to NDTs, the 20th CBRNE Command is home to 75 percent of the Active U.S. Army’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear specialists and Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians, as well as the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity and five Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordination Teams.
NDT Soldiers directly contribute to the nation’s strategic deterrence by staying ready to exploit and disable nuclear and radiological WMD infrastructure and components to deny near-term capability to adversaries. They also facilitate follow-on WMD elimination operations.
Through instruction, exercises and training, the students developed the skills to evaluate a nuclear reprocessing facility, apply methods of area reconnaissance, use detector instruments to mitigate radiation exposure and operate their organic communication equipment. The course is held annually at the Idaho National Laboratory.
"The overall training objective is to arm the NDT members with knowledge of nuclear fuel cycle processes, including facility awareness and hazard mitigation for the successful characterization and disablement of select processing facilities," said Troy Garn, the NIAD project manager at the Idaho National Laboratory.
“The two-week course entails a tiered level of instruction centering on Nuclear Fuel Cycle knowledge objectives. In addition to classroom lectures by INL subject matter experts, field training exercises using radiological sources are also held to provide detailed instruction on the proper selection and operation of the currently possessed NDT team instruments,” said Garn.
Sgt. 1st Class Losivale L. Tally was among the students who attended the course. Originally from Fagaitua, American Samoa, Tally is the noncommissioned officer in charge and health physics technician for NDT 2. A seasoned combat veteran, Tally has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and supported operations in Romania, Bulgaria and South America.
“NIAD will definitely help with my job because I have an important role to assist the health physicist to determine turn around rates for my team when entering a facility,” said Tally. “I’m more confident now in assisting my team with the different detectors we use on the team for different missions.”
Maj. Jonathan W. Schwarz, a Clifton Park, New York, native and former field artillery officer who has deployed to Afghanistan three times, also completed the training. He became a Nuclear and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction FA 52 officer because he wanted to “continue serving in the fires community by focusing on the world’s largest munitions.”
The Idaho National Laboratory training site encompasses a large secure testing range complex that enables the NDTs to train for mission essential tasks, said Schwarz.
“The vast majority of the U.S. government’s expertise around the nuclear fuel cycle resides within the Department of Energy,” said Schwarz. “As the DoD’s only unit which trains to exploit critical nuclear infrastructure, we rely heavily on our interagency counterparts from DoE who serve as the subject matter experts in this field.”
Maj. Joshua T. Mashl, a nuclear operations officer on NDT 1’s Characterization Team, called the Idaho National Laboratory the ideal setting for the course.
“There are world-class facilities and equipment at INL that we simply do not have access to anywhere else,” said Mashl, who has deployed to Afghanistan and Kuwait. “The expertise of the INL staff is staggering and having access to their minds throughout the course is irreplaceable.”
A former U.S. Army engineer officer from Colorado Springs, Colorado, Mashl chose to become a Nuclear and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction officer because he was intrigued with the science behind nuclear physics and engineering.
According to Mashl, the highlight of the course was the culminating exercise.
“We took all the knowledge we had gained in the first week and a half and applied it to a scenario in which we had access to an unknown but suspected nuclear facility,” said Mashl. “It was challenging trying to understand exactly what was happening in the facility, but given what we had learned up to that point, we were able to deduce with accuracy the nefarious activities within the facility.”