News: National Training Center holds WMD elimination exercise
Story by Guy Volb
FORT IRWIN, Calif. - Tucked in among the mountains, rock and desert landscape of the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., instruction continues to challenge members of America’s armed forces and that of its partner nations.
Already well known for the realism included in training scenarios and the austere environment that greets new arrivals, the center added a new wrinkle Jan. 31 – by introducing the ability to test units on dealing with weapons of mass destruction and prevent, among other things, their use and proliferation.
“This is the first time there’s ever been a CBRNE Battalion task force included as part of a training rotation,” pointed out Maj. Bradley Stremlau, of the 20th CBRNE Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. CBRNE refers to their specialty which focuses on mitigating Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives hazards.
The CBRNE Battalion task force, he said, was challenged with integrating into a maneuver force and brigade combat team. For this rotation that meant working with the 3-2 Stryker BCT out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. One training scenario included engaging opposition forces that were producing Sarin gas.
It required the CBRNE Response Team to team up with the Stryker BCT’s 2-3 Infantry Battalion, which was tasked with securing the objective area and facilities suspected of housing chemical weapons.
Once successfully secured, the CRT moved in to assess, characterize, and exploit the site – a small aluminum-sided warehouse containing “chemical processing equipment, artillery shells and large tanks used to store gas.”
“There were several objectives, but basically we’re charged with systematically locating, characterizing, and securing or destroying WMD programs, networks and related capabilities,” said Stremlau.
At depth that means preventing looting or capture of WMD and related material by enemies, while exploiting program experts, documents and other media found on such sites to prevent the proliferation of material, technology or personalities associated with the WMD network.
“There are four phases of WMD elimination,” the major stressed. “Isolation, exploitation, destruction, and monitoring/redirection; but first we have to safely shut down operations at each site, take samples, and mitigate associated hazards.”
He added that the environment provided by NTC ensures there are challenges regarding communications which, given the unit’s particular mandate, are extremely important. This particular training scenario took place in a valley surrounded by steep hills and mountainous terrain.
The end result, however, was well-worth the frustration and obstacles interjected by scenario developers, according to soldiers.
“It’s not fun, but the training definitely helps me with proficiency,” said Pfc. Kim Landicho, 24, from the Bronx, N.Y., and member of the CRT. “I’ve never been deployed so the environment here really helps prepare you for one in the future – so you’re not shocked. Every mission or training scenario taught me something new I can use.”
The training Landicho received is provided at the National Training Center to some 50,000 U.S. and multinational forces each year across a wide range of military operations, ensuring combat units are ready for worldwide contingencies.