CANADIAN FORCES BASE SUFFIELD, Alberta, Canada – Highly specialized NATO forces honed their lifesaving and mission-enabling skills during live-agent chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) training at Exercise Precise Response on Canadian Forces Base Suffield in Alberta, Canada, July 10 – 28.
CBRN troops from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States trained together at the Suffield Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) site during the exercise.
American Soldiers from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command’s 68th CBRNE Company (Technical Escort) and the 1st Area Medical Laboratory represented the U.S. Army at the multinational exercise.
The 68th CBRNE Company “Responders” are part of the 2nd CBRN Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade and 20th CBRNE Command, the U.S. military’s premier all hazards command.
The Fort Cavazos, Texas-based 68th CBRNE Company provides advice, assessment, sampling, detection, verification, render safe capabilities, packaging and escort of chemical and biological devices or hazards, biological surveillance and limited consequence management support for military forces and domestic authorities.
During the exercise, the 68th CBRNE Company assumed the role of Task Force lead, responsible for issuing orders and battle tracking five NATO countries.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Dylan T. Tossavainen, the executive officer for the 68th CBRNE Company, said the Responders operated and managed capabilities across the multinational task force during the annual NATO exercise.
“This exercise has allowed Soldiers to see a broader scale of how the military operates, expanding their scope from company and battalion training events to partnered NATO incorporated events,” said Tossavainen. “Our Soldiers will leave this exercise knowing where they fit not only in the U.S. Army but also across NATO as a whole.”
A native of Jacksonville, Florida, and graduate of New York University, Tossavainen has served in the U.S. Army for three years.
Tossavainen said he became a CBRN officer to protect the force and enable maneuver units to close with and defeat enemy forces.
Exercise Precise Response contributes to unit readiness by enabling the Responders to integrate with NATO forces during multidomain operations, said Tossavainen.
“We were given the opportunity to run equipment with a live sample and provide insight to other CBRN forces, which is an experience every Soldier here will never forget,” said Tossavainen. “There is no better training than when a Soldier is able to execute their job in a realistic environment and events like Precise Response allow us to be a more capable force for the U.S. Army.”
The Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland-based 1st Area Medical Laboratory “Mad Scientists” are assigned to the 44th Medical Brigade and 20th CBRNE Command.
The 1st Area Medical Laboratory deploys worldwide to perform surveillance, analytical laboratory testing and health hazards assessments of environmental, occupational, endemic disease and CBRN threats to protect U.S. and allied troops and support Weapons of Mass Destruction missions.
Members of the 1st Area Medical Laboratory supported numerous missions during the exercise, including Lt. Col. Cynthia Tucker who characterized the mosquito population in the training area for a new entry into the Smithsonian Institute’s specimen voucher collection used worldwide for mosquito research, Maj. Carl C. Ducummon who tested troops before and after missions and Capt. Jared M. Egbert who served as a preventive medicine physician.
Canadian Armed Forces Lt. Col. Trevor Waaga, the exercise director, also recognized U.S. Army Capt. Kaisha Nesmith from 1st Area Medical Laboratory for her support and expertise on radiological and nuclear issues during the exercise.
Maj. Suzanne E. Mate led a troop from the 1st Area Medical Laboratory that worked on 95 samples from 11 NATO teams during the exercise.
“The troop’s success is reflected in zero safety incidents and the gained trust of our Suffield hosts who welcomed us back in 2024,” said Mate. “We all learned together, which only happens at a combined training event.”
A graduate of George Washington University, Mate completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Health.
“Attending as a participant during the NATO exercise Precise Response 2023 is like being in the major leagues for CBRN mobile laboratories,” said Mate, who has served for 15 years as both an enlisted Soldier and commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. “Suffield scientists have decades of experience working with CBRN teams, detectors, analytical investigations and real-world hazard response.”
Canadian Armed Forces Capt. Zahida Assari, the Exercise Precise Response Joint Task Force public affairs officer, said NATO forces leveraged their expertise and capabilities to make the entire force more capable during the exercise.
“The national capability display period allowed nations to openly discuss and show their capabilities with each other,” said Assari, a native of Montreal who has served in the Canadian Armed Forces since 2014. “The best way to counter threats would be to learn and base tactics, techniques and procedures on previously established and proven expertise."