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CBRN Integration Into Forward Support Operations.

The forward support company (FSC), which is designed to provide direct logistics support to its supported battalion, is not typically assigned enabler assets due to sustainment operations. During National Training Center Rotation 17-03, the 70th Brigade Engineer Battalion (BEB) FSC provided mission command to a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) reconnaissance platoon and hazard assessment (HA) platoon capable of decontamination operations. The relationship between the FSC and CBRN platoons proved to be successful. This relationship could work for future combat training center (CTC) rotations due to the available maintenance expertise, distribution assets available, and CBRN iterations during a CTC rotation.

FSC Organization

The FSC is composed of three platoons--distribution, field feeding, and maintenance. The distribution platoon role is to conduct daily receipt; storage; and issue of Class I, II, III, IV, V, and IX supplies and transport them across the battlefield. The field feeding platoon role is to distribute, prepare, and serve meals. The maintenance platoon role is to perform field maintenance and maintenance management functions (such as dispatching and scheduling services) for the battalion. The distribution and maintenance platoons provide useful capabilities to CBRN assets. The distribution platoon Soldiers provide movement of classes of supply (particularly Class I) and bulk water to decontamination sites within the security zone or forward area. Maintenance platoon Soldiers, who have additional skill identifiers of F1 and F6, provide mechanical expertise; and they are capable of servicing sensors on the Nuclear Biological Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle (NBCRV).

CBRN Assets

The CBRN reconnaissance platoon is a small platoon, but its missions have lasting effects across the battlefield. The CBRN reconnaissance platoon is organic to all brigade combat teams. The only difference from one to another is the platform that is used. Many units align the platoon with the cavalry squadron due to similarities in reconnaissance missions. The CBRN reconnaissance tasks are slightly different, but they are still rooted in the fundamentals of reconnaissance. The CBRN reconnaissance platoon focuses on identifying and marking an uncontaminated route to provide freedom of maneuver, conducting CBRN surveys to determine the extent of a contamination, and collecting samples to provide theater laboratories with the ability to determine potential CBRN agents.

The HA platoon is capable of CBRN dismounted reconnaissance and limited operational decontamination. Dismounted reconnaissance is used to address priority intelligence requirements and illegal trends. The platoon is capable of assessing sensitive sites and presumptively confirming or denying enemy CBRN capabilities.

FSC and CBRN platoons do not typically interact before CTC rotations, but during NTC Rotation 17-03, the 70th BEB leveraged weekly in-progress reviews to allow the platoons to communicate and understand the mission sets that they would encounter. These weekly reviews narrowed the scope of responsibility and identified who would be providing mission command for the platoons. Additionally, a pre-deployment site survey and leader training program participation helped platoon leaders and the FSC commander create a template outlining the support relationship between FSC and CBRN platoons during the rotation.

Typical CBRN Utilization

During CTC rotations, CBRN assets are often used incorrectly or in a limited fashion due to the number of CBRN-related missions that are required to support the brigade. During NTC Rotation 17-03, the correct employment of CBRN assets was directly attributed to a mission commander and an FSC commander who was a CBRN officer who fully understood how to employ CBRN platoons and seamlessly integrate them throughout all operational phases.

The BEB faces a unique challenge compared to other battalions; the BEB supports more than 1,000 personnel throughout a rotation with a wide range of missions. Ensuring that mission command is properly delegated to the right commander is crucial in managing simultaneous tasks. CBRN assets are typically attached to the headquarters and headquarters company. This improves the flow of information in the event of a chemical attack. However, the reality is that CBRN platoons are often considered extra security assets and are integrated in the perimeter security plan.

During the leader training program, key leaders from the battalion staff, CBRN platoons, and the FSC developed a plan for how the CBRN platoons would be utilized during defensive and offensive operations. This plan clearly outlines the task and purpose of the platoons. In defensive operations, the reconnaissance platoon was strategically placed to provide early warning for possible chemical attacks near the brigade combat team support areas. In offensive operations, the reconnaissance platoon was placed with the HA platoon to confirm or deny templated clean and dirty routes and possible decontamination sites. The HA platoon was placed far enough forward, with security, to conduct dismounted reconnaissance in the event of a possible CBRN incident.

Possible Future Employment

With the current BEB FSC modified table of organization and equipment, the relationship between FSC and CBRN platoons does offer sustainable benefits. FSC equipment enhances CBRN capabilities. In decontamination operations, water is often an issue within the brigade combat team. For example, who will provide the water and how long will it be before it arrives at the decontamination site? The distribution platoon can dedicate a water asset to the reconnaissance platoon to ensure that the platoon has adequate water to support a company size element of Strykers or equivalent, and the maintenance platoon can provide NBCRV maintenance support. The reconnaissance platoon offers security during convoy movements for the FSC. This relationship has the potential to satisfy CBRN platoons and the FSC.


The maintenance expertise within the FSC increases the reconnaissance platoon ability to provide early warning of imminent chemical attacks and mark or bypass potential areas of chemical contamination. The distribution assets within the FSC provide the HA platoon with the ability to maneuver delicate equipment across restricted terrain to confirm or deny chemical presence. With the increase in chemical attacks around the world, it is prudent that CBRN assets be employed correctly, sustained through their own capabilities with a possible modified table of organization and equipment change, or aligned with an FSC in order to best conduct their CBRN missions.

Captain Johnson is the forward support commander for the 70th BEB, 1st Stryker BEB, Fort Wainwright, Alaska. He holds a bachelor's degree in health education from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and a master's degree in environmental management from Webster University.

First Lieutenant Park is the executive officer for the 95th CBRN Company (Hazard Response) at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Nevada.
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Author:Johnson, Keith J.; Park, Robert J.
Publication:CML Army Chemical Review
Date:Jun 22, 2018
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