CAMP BLANDING, Florida – Soldiers from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command trained for their interagency nuclear forensics mission around the Gainesville, Florida, area during Exercise Prominent Hunt, Oct. 25 – 29.
Members of 20th CBRNE Command’s Nuclear Disablement Team 3 and 2nd CBRNE Response Team, 46th Chemical Company, qualified to serve on prepare-to-deploy orders as a part of the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Ground Collection Task Force.
NDT 3, communication and mechanical support team members deployed on a C-17 Galaxy directly from Phillips Army Airfield on their home station of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, before convoying to Camp Blanding, Florida, where the exercise was based.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Aaron H. Kazer, the 20th CBRNE Command mobility officer, said deploying directly from Phillips Army Airfield helped the team to quickly arrive on scene.
“Most units within 20th CBRNE have a 96-hour mobilization criteria to have all equipment and personnel at the destination, should they be called upon,” said Kazer. “Having units deploy directly from APG significantly shortens that timeline.
“Not having to plan and coordinate for line haul, convoy, internal efforts to mitigate risk for safe movement and U.S. Air Force channel air processes saves countless hours,” said Kazer, a 17-year Army veteran from College Park, Maryland, who has deployed to Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. “Departing out of Phillips Army Airfield exponentially shortens the time in ensuring 20th CBRNE units arrive safely in one day.”
Lt. Col. Michael C. Fish, the chief of Nuclear Disablement Team 3, said the exercise qualifies the 20th CBRNE Command Soldiers to conduct the National Technical Nuclear Forensics mission.
“The overall goal of the exercise for NDT 3 is to serve as the Department of Defense arm of the interagency task force,” said Fish. “Prominent Hunt allows us to exercise our full set of training objectives and mission essential tasks while integrated with the Department of Energy and the FBI. Each of our interagency partners plays a unique role and this exercise allows us to execute those responsibilities in a collective venue.”
Along with the team chief, the deploying Nuclear Disablement Team 3 members were Maj. Stacey M. Yarborough, Capt. Benjamin C. Troxell, Capt. James D. Sullivan, Capt. Bryant C. Ahn, Capt. Trevor S. Lanham, Capt. Monique M. McIver, Sgt. 1st Class Liberio Miguel Pablo, Sgt. Ivan R. Daniere and Pfc. Javier Garcia Jr. The communications support team was Sgt. Luis F. Fernandez, Spc. Duncan C. Skidmore, Spc. Ryan Popp, Pfc. Bryan D. Farr and Pfc. Patrick H. Kuchta. Cpl. Nestor Hernandez and Spc. Stuart A. Landaverde served as the mechanical support team.
NDT 3 is one of only three Nuclear Disablement Teams in the U.S. military. All three teams are stationed on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, at the 20th CBRNE Command Headquarters.
Soldiers and civilians from the 20th CBRNE Command deploy from 19 installations in 16 states to take on the world’s most dangerous threats and hazards on missions overseas and at home.
As the U.S. Department of Defense deputy task force lead, Fish said NDT 3 plays several roles in the NTNF Ground Collection Task Force.
“We lead the sample collection planning effort and are responsible to ensure samples meet the strict criteria. We also provide mission command for the collection teams and oversee the execution of sample collection operations,” said Fish, a native of Pilot Point, Texas, who has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. “Collecting radioactive material can be a high risk operation, so it’s important for me to ensure we accomplish our mission while also keeping Soldiers healthy and prepared for follow-on operations.”
During the exercise, NDT 3 operates the Aerial Radiation Detection Identification Measurement System, which is an array of large radiation detectors mounted on a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, to collect radiation data that will help them to determine sampling locations that will minimize the risk to the Soldiers going into those areas.
Soldiers from the 2nd CBRNE Response Team had a rigorous training schedule in preparation for the exercise. Part of the 46th Chemical Company, 22nd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade and 20th CBNRE Command, CRT 2 Soldiers participated in classroom training at the 20th CBRNE Command Headquarters on Aberdeen Proving Ground and trained on Fort Bliss, Texas, where the company is stationed. CRT 2 members also participated in a crater crawl where they practiced collecting samples at the Nevada National Security Site in Mercury, Nevada.
“CRT 2 is made up of diligent, hard-working team members that are very motivated to take this mission,” said 1st Lt. Alexandria D. Perkins, the CRT 2 team leader. “This training is imperative to our mission readiness.
“The different entities that make up this task force are stationed all across the United States,” said Perkins. “Training like this that brings us to one location to work together is very important. It's important for every member of the team to see how all the different pieces of the puzzle come together to make the mission successful.”
A native of Sedalia, Missouri, and former brigade chemical officer for the 3rd Armored Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Perkins said the highlight of the training has been the opportunity to work closely with different echelons within the Army and outside agencies like the FBI and Department of Energy.
“Within the task force, the CRT operates as the Ground Collection Team," said Perkins. “When called to respond to an incident, the Soldiers of the CRT will be the ones on the ground, collecting the nuclear debris.”
Sgt. 1st Class Nathan A. Harris, the CRT 2 team sergeant, said his Soldiers surpassed all requirements during the training.
“This is training that the ground collection task force deserves,” said Harris, a 15-year Army veteran from Schertz, Texas, who has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Along with Perkins and Harris, CRT 2 includes Warrant Officer Jessica M. Jackson, Sgt. 1st Class Anthony D. Dymond, Staff Sgt. Danzic Balocom, Staff Sgt. Jacoby Purdykaai, Sgt. Ryan White, Sgt. Estaban Guerrero Jr., Spc. Andrew Vaneventer, Spc. Terry Conway, Pfc. Osvaldo Castaner, Pfc. Christian Stough and Pfc. Matthew Spade.
The U.S. Army members of the NTNF Ground Collection Task Force serve on prepare-to-deploy orders for six months until another team is certified for the mission during the next exercise. Exercise Prominent Hunt and the training that leads up to it are designed to keep these specialized units ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.
According to the senior law enforcement official for the exercise, this constant state of readiness should give pause to any adversary.
“Preventing a weapon of mass destruction incident is among the FBI’s highest priorities,” said Rachel L. Rojas, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division. “Training exercises like Prominent Hunt 22 allow the FBI and our law enforcement and defense partners to remain prepared to respond to an attack, while further enhancing our ability to identify and apprehend any individuals responsible. This ability should be a deterrent to criminals who believe they can commit acts of terror against the U.S. and get away with it.”