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Exercise integrates CBRNE operations

Lancers support Atropian Phoenix

20th CBRNE Command

Published: 11:00PM July 24th, 2014

The 20th CBRNE Command, the U.S. Army’s only formation tasked with integrated chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive ordnance disposal operations, demonstrated its readiness, agility and adaptability during Exercise Atropian Phoenix in June.

The 20th CBRNE Command’s nationwide command post and field training exercise integrated the command’s Operational Command Post here in Edgewood, Md., with the Tactical Command Post of the 48th Chemical Brigade Headquarters on Fort Hood, Texas, the 52nd EOD Group Headquarters on Fort Campbell, Ky., and CBRNE Task Force 110 at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, Calif., during NTC rotation 14-08.

At Fort Irwin, Atropian Phoenix integrated 20th CBRNE Command personnel with ground combat units from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team “Lancers” from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. South Korean troops from the Republic of Korea Army’s Chemical Biological Defense Command also trained with 20th CBRNE Command personnel at the National Training Center.

Lieutenbant Colonel Brant Hoskins, commander of the JBLM-based 110th Chemical Battalion, led CBRNE Task Force 110 at Fort Irwin, as the live component of this first-of-a-kind exercise.

CBRNE Task Force 110 was made up of Explosive Ordnance Disposal units, chemical reconnaissance and decontamination units, CBRNE Response Teams, a Nuclear Disablement Team and a Heavy Mobile Expeditionary Laboratory. The task force also included a CBRNE Response Team from the Republic of Korea Army.

“Our biggest challenge was forming a coherent battalion task force out of units that came from four different installations and the Republic of Korea Army,” Hoskins said. “We were able to overcome this challenge by executing seven days of situational training exercises prior to conducting the force-on-force part of the rotation.”

Tackling tough challenges

Hoskins said his CBRNE task force tackled some tough scenarios.

“The scenarios that we encountered at the NTC were very realistic and challenging,” Hoskins said. “The enemy, the environment and the operational tempo gave my Soldiers the opportunity to practice their craft in very tough conditions which will ultimately serve them well if they have to do it in combat.”

“The exercise forced the CBRNE task force to effectively integrate with maneuver and other supporting units to conduct a coherent counter weapons-of-mass-destruction campaign,” Hoskins said. “We see this as the wave of the future for our formations.”

According to Col. Sven Erichsen, the 48th Chemical Brigade commander, the exercise enabled his Fort Hood, Texas-based brigade to serve as an integrated CBRNE headquarters, connected to both the 20th CBRNE Command headquarters in Maryland and his deployed troops in California.

“Atropian Phoenix improved our ability to operate as a CBRNE Brigade Task Force by allowing us to train with a set of enablers — communications capabilities, technical capabilities — that we don’t have organically in a normal chemical brigade command post,” Erichsen said.

Erichsen said the inclusion of a CBRNE Coordination Element greatly improved his ability to command integrated CBRNE operations.

“Its complement of intelligence, EOD, nuclear and CBRN hazard prediction experts really gives us the capability to function as a CBRNE headquarters.”

“With the CCE, we gain the analytical ability required to plan future WMD elimination operations, as well as additional specialized EOD and nuclear capabilities for current operations,” Erichsen said.

Deployment skills validated

The Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland-based CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity, a U.S. Army activity made up of civilian scientists, validated its Heavy Mobile Expeditionary Laboratory during the exercise.

Inside the laboratory tent on Fort Irwin, eight civilian scientists from CARA tested environmental, chemical, biological and explosive samples that were collected during simulated combat operations.

“This was the HMEL’s validation exercise and the first deployment to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin,” said CARA Director Christopher K. Chesney.

A retired U.S. Army officer from Chicago, Chesney said CARA performed three crucial missions during Atropian Phoenix: serving as the theater laboratory, setting up chemical and biological training lanes and providing technical escort aviation support of surety material.

Command Sgt. Maj. Harold E. Dunn IV, the senior enlisted adviser of the 20th CBRNE Command, said the capstone exercise tested 20th CBRNE Command leaders at all levels.

“Atropian Phoenix created an opportunity to test the mettle of all levels of leadership throughout the command,” Dunn said, the former command sergeant major for Combined Joint Task Force Paladin in Afghanistan and the 52nd EOD Group at Fort Campbell. “Rapid situational scenarios pushed decision making and on ground execution allowing leaders and Soldiers to learn and grow.

“This event encompassed tactical, operational and strategic decision making while concurrent intelligence preparation of the battlefield continued in order to mitigate future enemy operations, enabling freedom of maneuver and ultimate domination of the operational environment,” Dunn said.

Dunn said the 20th CBRNE Command fills a unique and crucial role in defending the United States and its allies.

“20th troopers are a highly adaptive and agile force comprised of a rough, tough and ready group of men and women who knowingly place themselves directly in harm’s way for the safety and security of others,” Dunn said. “What they do must be done and they are the ones to do it.”

Year of accomplishment

Brigadier General J.B. Burton, the commanding general of 20th CBRNE Command, said his command tested portions of its emerging concept of operations, including the inclusion of regionally aligned, integrated CBRNE units, during the exercise.

“The complexity of Atropian Phoenix was a highlight in and of itself,” Burton said, who leads more than 5,300 Soldiers and civilians from his headquarters on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

In addition to improving the readiness of the 20th CBRNE Command, Burton said the exercise validated the operational effectiveness of integrating CBRN and EOD forces into all hazards formations.

“Integrating these forces, under a unifying, technically competent headquarters at the appropriate echelon, immediately improves our capabilities,” Burton said.

He said he was proud of what the 20th CBRNE Cmd. accomplished over the past year, including the successful Atropian Phoenix.

“Atropian Phoenix was a huge undertaking, which has been in the works for the past year, from concept to execution,” Burton said. “A lot of hard work and a lot of powerful teaming efforts went into making this first of its kind training event possible.”