LANDSTUHL, Germany – A team of environmental health scientists recently deployed to Romania and North Macedonia in support of Defender 2023 to collect environmental samples to ensure proper environmental stewardship of host nation lands by U.S. Forces.
Public Health Command Europe conducts an annual, multi-phase mission to support the NATO training exercise that takes place across various countries in Europe.
The intent is to capture the environmental exposures that may have happened during the training event by planning, preparing and executing environmental baseline surveys and environmental closure reports.
Public Health Command Europe has conducted the mission since 2020, sending a team of soldiers to assess the training locations, perform soil sampling and provide logistical support to transport the collected samples to the PHCE laboratory and other contract laboratories for analysis.
The Health Risk Management team typically spearheads this mission but soldiers from all teams within environmental health sciences support the effort.
It was 1Lt. Taylor Hughes, first time taking part in a Defender exercise.
“A lot of time is spent planning, preparing and figuring out the logistical portions of the mission which are equally as important,” said 1Lt. Taylor Hughes, Deputy Chief of Environmental Health Engineering for Public Health Command Europe. “But I truly enjoyed moving the mission into real life and being able to use the skillset that I learned back in school. I hope I can go back again next year.”
Public Health Command Europe’s involvement captures a “before” and “after” snapshot of the lands used to support the NATO-wide training exercise. These sampling events provide detailed information about potential environmental exposures and allows commanders to take remedial action or make reparations if necessary.
Defender 23 is a U.S. European Command directed multi-national, joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between more than 7,000 U.S. and 17,000 multi-national service members from more than 20 allied and partner nations that takes place from late April to late June.
“This is a great opportunity to liaison with NATO allies in areas with huge troop movements,” said Public Health Command Europe Environmental Science and Engineering Officer Capt. Timothy Johnson. “We leverage our technical expertise to support the rotational forces.”
Laboratory services also has a significant role in receiving the requests for laboratory services, preparing the sampling containers and shipping the necessary materials to the respective sampling locations ahead of time.
Public Health Command Europe provides integrated, comprehensive, and global veterinary and preventive medicine support, that includes: occupational and environmental medicine, laboratory services, veterinary services, health promotion and wellness, environmental health and engineering, occupational health services, and epidemiology and disease surveillance. This support is provided for garrisons, training areas, and contingency and combat forces operating in United States European Command, United States Africa Command, and United States Central Command. The range of support routinely spans throughout 40 countries in a given year.