JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – An Army Chemical Corps officer helps to protect the United States and its warfighters from all hazards across the nation and around the world.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Toy Nguyen serves as the team leader for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Response Team 1, which is currently part of the interagency National Technical Nuclear Forensics Ground Collection Task Force (NTNF).
Supported by U.S. Army Nuclear Disablement Teams and CBRNE Response Teams as well as the U.S. Air Force Technical Applications Center, the FBI-led NTNF Ground Collection Task Force gathers and packages samples of radioactive fallout that enable partner agencies to determine the source of the radiation.
The Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington-based CBRNE Response Team 1 is assigned to the 11th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Company (Technical Escort), 110th Chemical Battalion (Technical Escort), 48th Chemical Brigade and 20th CBRNE Command, the U.S. military’s premier all hazards formation.
From 19 bases in 16 states, American Soldiers and Army civilians from 20th CBRNE Command confront and defeat the world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and allied operations.
CBRNE Response Teams tackle a variety of challenging missions, including initial sampling, limited decontamination, packaging, escorting, detection, munitions assessment, explosive threat mitigation and contaminated sensitive site exploitation.
Nguyen began her military service as an enlisted combat medic at the Weed Army Community Hospital (WACH) on Fort Irwin, California.
“I truly enjoyed working at WACH during those first four developmental years as a junior Soldier and noncommissioned officer before commissioning,” said Nguyen.
The CBRNE Response Team leader decided to join the Army after earning her bachelor’s degree in crime, law and society from the University of California-Irvine and her law degree from Whittier College, adding that she wanted to learn everything about the legal system to advocate for laws that best represent the people.
“The best part of serving as a Chemical Corps officer is the variety of missions and the schools offered," said Nguyen. "My favorite assignment so far is the NTNF mission because it allowed me to be part of an elite CBRNE response task force that works together to navigate threats to the American people.”
Nguyen said that leadership in the Army is built on trust and respect. In the future, she plans to build on that leadership philosophy by taking care of her Soldiers and their families while also taking care of her family.
“The greatest lesson I have learned so far in the Army is that it is in the business of people — respecting people’s needs and capabilities is critical to building trust,” said Nguyen. “This trust in turn builds better working relationships within the unit and among entities that the Army works with.”
Nguyen said joining the Army is a great way to gain valuable leadership experience and to make a difference around the world.
“My best advice for someone thinking about joining the Army is to make your own path. You are the biggest advocate for your career,” said Nguyen. “There will be great leaders to guide you along the way and memories you will not soon forget.”
Nguyen was inspired to serve in the U.S. Army by her father and mother who immigrated with her from Saigon, Vietnam, to the United States in 1987.
After spending less than a year in Florida, her family moved to Los Angeles where she recalls making friends with a diverse group of students.
“Before I was born, my family twice attempted to escape Vietnam during the Vietnam War but was caught by the Viet Cong,” said Nguyen. “After I was born, we received sponsorship and moved from Vietnam to the U.S.”
Her father served in the Vietnamese Air Force and spent almost five years as a prisoner of war.
“My mother and father inspired me to serve. My mother, when she was living, inspired me by always having a big heart and giving to others,” said Nguyen. “My father inspired me, not only as an aviation officer in the Vietnamese Air Force during the war but also by being captured and resilient as a POW. He showed me that freedom is worth fighting for.”