ANNAPOLIS, Maryland – Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Nuclear Disablement Teams conducted water survival training at the U.S. Naval Academy, Feb. 8.
Leveraging the world class diving well at LeJeune Hall, members of the one-of-a-kind teams achieved the U.S. Navy 2nd class swimmer qualification.
The three NDTs - NDT 1 “Manhattan,” NDT 2 “Iron Maiden” and NDT 3 “Vandals” - are part of the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. Department of Defense’s premier all hazards command.
Col. John P. Kunstbeck, the 20th CBRNE Command chief of staff and senior Nuclear and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction officer in the multifunctional command, participated in the water survival training along with nine NDT members and six Soldiers from the command’s G6 Communications Directorate. Kunstbeck is from Altoona, Pennsylvania.
The highly specialized NDTs directly contribute to the nation’s strategic deterrence by staying ready to exploit and disable nuclear and radiological Weapons of Mass Destruction infrastructure and components to deny near-term capability to adversaries.
Made up of Nuclear and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction officers, Explosive Ordnance Disposal officers, health physicists and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear specialists, the NDTs provide advanced forensics and attribution capabilities in support of overseas and domestic missions. The teams also facilitate follow-on WMD elimination operations.
Maj. Aaron J. Heffelfinger, a nuclear operations officer from NDT 1, said this was the second year that the NDTs had trained at the Naval Academy aquatic facility.
“It increases our lethality by improving our ability to survive in the water if needed – like if an aircraft carrying the team had to make an emergency water landing,” said Heffelfinger. “Important as well, the training provided a good cardiovascular workout to build on our physical fitness.”
A former Air Defense Artillery officer who has deployed to Jordan, Heffelfinger said he became a Nuclear and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction officer because he was interested in the nuclear sciences and wanted to increase the impact he had serving the force.
During the qualification training, the Soldiers jumped from a 10-meter-high elevated platform to simulate a fall into the water from a ship or aircraft and followed the proper technique needed to avoid injury. The team members then practiced survival flotation by using the U.S. Navy’s face down approach and Army Combat Uniform trousers as makeshift life preservers.
“These two techniques greatly increase the time someone can survive in the water without reaching exhaustion and drowning,” said Heffelfinger, an 18-year U.S. Army veteran from Moore Township, Pennsylvania. “The team also practiced multiple swimming strokes during a 50-meter swim to better familiarize ourselves with techniques to remain afloat.”
Maj. Mark S. Quint, the team leader for NDT 1, said the teams regularly leverage the expertise and facilities of joint and interagency partners.
“Given the highly technical mission of the NDTs, we rely on training and partnership with our interagency partners across the breadth of the U.S. Government,” said Quint, a 14-year Army veteran from Paulsboro, New Jersey, who previously deployed to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan as an artilleryman. “Our counterparts at the Department of Energy, Department of Justice and each of our sister services support the mission of the NDTs and the 20th CBRNE as a whole.”
Quint thanked the U.S. Naval Academy for hosting the water survival training. He said the Naval Academy was one of many highly esteemed academic institutions that support the NDTs, along with the Pennsylvania State University, Air Force Institute of Technology and Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute.
“The faculty, both civilian and military, at the United States Naval Academy have been exceptionally accommodating to our unique unit,” said Quint. “Our small, diverse and highly educated team partners well with many academic institutions, many of whom go out of their way to help improve the readiness of our Nuclear Disablement Teams.”