The 20th CBRNE Command’s Nuclear Disablement Team 3 and Soldiers from the Headquarters, Headquarters Company out of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and the 68th CBRN Hazardous Response Team out of Fort Hood, Texas, deployed with the National Nuclear Technical Forensic Ground Collection Task Force as part of Exercise Prominent Hunt 17-2, conducted in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, September 18-22.
The multi-agency exercise is part of a series of regularly scheduled biannual training exercises of the U.S government’s NTNF GCTF that have been conducted since 2010.
The NTNF GCTF is comprised of operational components from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Defense (DOD), each assigned with specific roles and responsibilities to capitalize on the strengths of the respective agencies.
The purpose of the exercise is to provide the NTNF GCTF with an opportunity to practice and enhance their operational response readiness in the event of a terrorist initiated nuclear detonation anywhere in the United States or abroad. It also allows for evaluation of the 20th CBRNE Command’s Ground Collection Team and the NTNF GCTF’s capability to efficiently mobilize, deploy, plan, collect material and debris samples, and process and prepare those samples for transport to designated analytical laboratories in a post detonation environment – in addition to operating and coordinating with other state and federal agencies.
The exercise does not use actual radioactive materials and poses no danger to the public.
Preparing for such an event can take anywhere between six months to a year of constant communication between the agencies involved, according to Tim Brochu, training and exercise planner with the 20th CBRNE Command.
But how does an exercise such as Prominent Hunt, prepare CBRNE soldiers for a possible real-world event?
“Responding to an emergency like a nuclear detonation is not the time to exchange business cards,” said Lt. Col. Patricia Roach, NTNF GCTF exercise director and Nuclear Disablement Team chief with the 20th CBRNE Command. “The Ground Collection Task Force exercise allows rotating DoD personnel to build working relationships with our interagency partners, as well as familiarization with this unique early post-detonation mission.”
The knowledge and expertise from each of the agencies involved in the exercise is necessary in order to accurately and effectively determine the origin of a terrorist initiated nuclear detonation. The specific capabilities of the 20th CBRNE teams are no exception.
“20th CBRNE’s NDT3 is a nuclear specialty team. It deploys with nuclear engineers, nuclear operations officers, a health physicist, an ordnance officer and CBRN soldiers,” said Roach.