US Army North, National Guard highlight role in domestic CBRN response missions

By Walter T. Ham IVNovember 15, 2023

Exercise Guardian Response
A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier from the 409th Engineer Vertical Construction Company of Windsor, Colorado, participates in a mock urban search and rescue operation in an area with chemical, biological and nuclear contamination during Guardian Response 22 at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Indiana, April 29, 2022. This exercise features realistic venues and civilian role players to mock a demanding disaster environment. Guardian Response 22 helps U.S Army Reserve Soldiers exercise command and control in a realistic, challenging environment.
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Experts from U.S. Army North and the National Guard Bureau discussed the importance of having trained and ready multicomponent military units to conduct domestic Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) response missions.

Leaders from U.S. Army North and the National Guard Bureau participated in a virtual Leader Professional Development Program session with officers, noncommissioned officers and Army civilians from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, Nov. 14.

The CBRN experts discussed the multicomponent military units that deploy for integrated state and federal CBRN response missions in support of the lead agency.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Roberto R. Sanchez, the CBRN chief for U.S. Army North, described the CBRN Response Enterprise and Federal Response (Title 10) roles the military covers during domestic response missions to save lives and mitigate suffering.

Frank C. Hudoba Jr., the civilian Strategic Concepts and Doctrine Branch chief at the National Guard Bureau, talked about State Response (Title 32) missions that National Guard CBRN teams accomplish in support of missions around the nation as part of the Incident Command System.

The National Guard teams include Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams, CBRN Enhanced Response Force Packages and Homeland Response Forces.

Hudoba said the National Guard teams have responded to numerous incidents from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina to the Boston Marathon Bombing and Elk River Chemical Spill.

Domestic Response Mission
A U.S. Army civilian from 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command's CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity (CARA) clears explosive components from Deal Beach, New Jersey. Army civilians from CARA were called in after old explosive components were dredged onto the beach during a hurricane restoration project. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

In addition to enabling joint, interagency and allied operations overseas, the 20th CBRNE Command routinely supports domestic missions.

Headquartered on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the 20th CBRNE Command is home to 75 percent of the active-duty U.S. Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians and CBRN specialists, as well as the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity, five Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordination Teams and three Nuclear Disablement Teams.

From 19 bases in 16 states, Soldiers and Army civilians from 20th CBRNE Command accomplish mission-enabling and lifesaving missions by taking on the world’s most dangerous hazards.

Chemical companies from 20th CBRNE Command serve on prepare-to-deploy orders for the U.S. Northern Command Joint Task Force-Civil Support Defense CBRNE Response Force. Soldiers from 20th CBRNE Command provide CBRN assessment and decontamination capabilities.

Nuclear Disablement Teams and CBRNE Response Teams from 20th CBRNE Command also serve on the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Ground Collection Task Force.

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.

Exercise Prominent Hunt
Soldiers from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command validated their mission readiness to serve on the interagency National Technical Nuclear Forensics Ground Collection Task Force during Exercise Prominent Hunt, 16 - 20. American Soldiers and Airmen trained together with interagency partners to conduct post-blast nuclear forensics missions during the exercise in Frankfort, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Maj. Steven M. Modugno) VIEW ORIGINAL

U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal techs from the 20th CBRNE Command also routinely confront and defeat unexploded military munitions when they are discovered on and off base across the nation.

Col. Vance M. Brunner, the operations director (G3) for 20th CBRNE Command, said the professional development program session helped Soldiers and Army civilians at the command to better understand the interrelated nature of domestic missions.

“It takes teamwork to effectively respond to domestic CBRN incidents, from FEMA and Fire and Police Departments to highly trained U.S. military units,” said Brunner.

A native of Kailua, Hawaii, and graduate of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, Brunner has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The U.S. military’s multicomponent CBRN teams safeguard our nation and its citizens and warfighters,” said Brunner. “We use these Leader Professional Development sessions to remind our teammates that we are the best at what we do. The 20th CBRNE Command is a disciplined force that accomplishes many important response missions but we do this through a team effort. All of us contribute to that success.”