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The 23d CBRNE Battalion: how we train and sustain.

The 23d Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Battalion, Camp Stanley, Korea, is the largest--and only forward-deployed--U.S. Army CBRNE battalion capable of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and hazard reconnaissance, exploitation, and decontamination in the Korean theater of operations. The battalion consists of the--

* Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment.

* 4th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Company.

* 61st CBRN Company.

* 62d CBRN Company.

* 501st CBRNE Company (Technical Escort).

* 718th Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal).

Each of the CBRN companies consists of one nuclear, biological, and chemical reconnaissance vehicle (NBCRV) platoon and three decontamination platoons--two of which are assigned the additional mission of reconnaissance and surveillance.

The 23d CBRNE Battalion trains for two distinct wartime mission sets:

* Freedom of movement and maneuver.

* WMD elimination operations.

The battalion must execute these two distinct mission sets with a high level of technical competence at the same time that it endures continuous personnel turnover. Our challenge is to meet the need to "Fight Tonight" in two complementary areas--how we train and how we sustain.

How We Train

The 23d CBRNE Battalion, which is assigned to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team (1ABCT), 2d Infantry Division (2ID), has an operational control training relationship with 1ABCT maneuver battalions. Therefore, to further enable both mission sets, the 23d CBRNE Battalion formulates as a company team package consisting of one maneuver support CBRN company and one chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives response team (CRT). The company team package is task-organized to one of the 1ABCT maneuver battalions and, along with the CBRN company commander, forms a complete package. The CBRN company commander, who is colocated with the maneuver battalion commander, provides the maneuver battalion commander with technical advice on how to best use the full spectrum of CBRNE assets under his or her control.

To maintain the "Fight Tonight" standards of 2ID, the 23d CBRNE Battalion must continuously conduct driver's training courses, combatives training, weapons range exercises, and Tactical Combat Casualty Care courses. Therefore, the battalion training plan must account for the significant turnover of personnel (approximately 50 percent every 6 months) in Korea. To meet this challenge, the battalion developed an aggressive, 6-month training cycle--formalized in a unit training plan--that provides space and predictability for companies to train at individual and collective levels.

The primary focus during the first quarter of the 6-month training cycle was a battalion level NBCRV gunnery and squad situational training exercise that resulted in the certification of NBCRV squads and subteams within each reconnaissance and surveillance platoon, CRT, and decontamination platoon. The first dismounted reconnaissance sets, kits, and outfits (DRSKO) were concurrently fielded to six reconnaissance and surveillance platoons and four CRTs within the 23d CBRNE Battalion. A secondary focus was on driver's training, the Combatives Level I Course, monthly weapons range exercises, and Tactical Combat Casualty Care courses. Other priorities included operationalizing leader development and certification through a comprehensive lieutenant development program; battalion competitions; and focus areas aimed at physical readiness, weapons proficiency, medical tasks, maintenance, and logistics.

The culminating event of the second quarter of the training cycle was a battalion level, combined CBRNE field training exercise that included participation from maneuver battalions and aligned Republic of Korea partners and was executed according to the WMD elimination mission. Six reconnaissance and surveillance platoons and two CRTs were certified during the CBRNE field training exercise. The secondary focus of the battalion during the second quarter was on collective NBCRV gunnery. Other priorities included the completion of DRSKO fielding, driver's training, the Combatives Level II Course, monthly weapons range exercises, and Tactical Combat Casualty Care courses. In addition, leader development and certification continued.

The 23d CBRNE Battalion discovered that the stated priorities for both quarters of the 6-month training cycle were accompanied by training challenges which were unique to Korea. To address the challenges associated with conducting an internal battalion level NBCRV gunnery, the battalion employed the 1ABCT master gunner to train three reconnaissance and surveillance platoon sergeants and a designated battalion master gunner from the operations and training (S-3) office. But because assignments to the 23d CBRNE Battalion are just 1 year in length, that approach only resulted in a short-term solution. To increase continuity within NBCRV platoons, the 23d CBRNE Battalion began providing funding for an eligible senior noncommissioned officer (NCO) to attend the Stryker Master Trainer Course (held in the United States) if the NCO agreed to a 1-year extension of his or her tour in Korea. The NCO then served as the Stryker master trainer in the S-3 office for the duration of the extension.

The fielding of DRSKO also brought substantial training challenges to light. Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety standards require that all Soldiers operating in self-contained breathing apparatuses be certified at the hazmat operations level. And the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School (USACBRNS) requires that advanced individual training and Advanced Leader Course graduates be certified at the hazmat operations and technician levels. However, the 23d CBRNE Battalion receives Soldiers who have not met these requirements or whose certifications could not be located in the Department of Defense (DOD) Fire and Emergency Services Certification Program Lookup System (available at <>). Furthermore, the nearest location where hazmat operations and hazmat technician level certifications can be obtained is the U.S. Air Force Fire Emergency Service at Osan Air Base--about a 2-hour drive from Camp Stanley. The battalion continues to work with USACBRNS and the U.S. Army Human Resources Command to ensure that assigned personnel have obtained the necessary certifications and that the information has been uploaded to their digital profiles.

The battalion discovered that, due to the high personnel turnover rate, maintaining proficiency levels comparable to those observed in the United States was unrealistic. The 23d CBRNE Battalion tackled the challenge of maintaining and increasing the technical proficiency levels of reconnaissance and surveillance platoons and CRTs using a three-pronged approach. First, the battalion chose to protect CRTs from red-cycle taskings throughout the 6-month training cycle. (1) The CRTs were involved in green- and amber-cycle taskings; and during the amber cycles, they were called on, if needed, to assist the red-cycle company. For example, the CRTs covered numerous M9 pistol range taskings during the 6-month training cycle because they had the experience required for such taskings. The second means that the 23d CBRNE Battalion used to increase the proficiency levels of reconnaissance and surveillance platoons and CRTs was through the quarterly funding of stateside mobile training teams. Depending on mobile training team availability, the battalion funds training for Advanced Chemistry and Biology, Advanced Radiation I and II, Hazardous Air Pollutants On Site (HAPSITE)[R], Portable Isotopic Neutron Spectroscopy (PINS)[R], and Target Recognition. And finally, the 23d CBRNE Battalion continues to identify personnel throughout the formation who are master trainers on other technically demanding equipment. For example, CRT sergeants are technically proficient on higher-level analytics, as are explosive ordnance disposal team leaders on various robots. Through the use of a certification checklist that includes quarterly, semiannual, and annual testing requirements, these identified master trainers now certify rotational personnel in areas such as HAPSITE, PINS, and Throwbots[R] (miniature reconnaissance robots) as they arrive at their assigned units.

Although the 23d CBRNE Battalion maintained proficiency with its assigned mission-essential task list, it did not do so without facing challenges that were unique to Korea. Whether training for either of the two battalion wartime missions or meeting "Fight Tonight" deployment readiness requirements, adjustments for personnel turnover were continuous. The battalion discovered that the best way to adjust for the extremely high personnel turnover rates in Korea was by incorporating a 6-month training cycle and identifying master trainers to increase technical and tactical proficiency and continuity.

How We Sustain

To meet "Fight Tonight" sustainment requirements, the 23d CBRNE Battalion collaborated with sustainment units at brigade and theater levels to develop a comprehensive plan for support in armistice and wartime operations. At the battalion level, the primary task was to develop a comprehensive maintenance program, a 72-hour unit basic load, and push packages for resupply operations. The sustainment requirements were shared with higher echelons using venues such as Ulchi Freedom Guardian, 2ID WMD Elimination Microexperiment, Key Resolve, and Warpath exercises.

Maintenance Program

Two NBCRVs from the Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1ABCT, were task-organized to the 23d CBRNE Battalion, increasing the battalion NBCRV fleet for the purpose of training and readiness oversight. The battalion maintained a 20-vehicle NBCRV fleet above 90 percent by implementing a comprehensive maintenance program, which included the following advancements:

* An extension to the field service representative contract was requested, granted, and funded by the project manager.

* The NBCRV technical manual was condensed into a more manageable, user-friendly version to assist Soldiers in conducting preventive maintenance checks and services.

* Soldiers with Military Occupational Specialty 94F (Computer/Detection Systems Repairer) and Additional Skill Identifiers FI (Biological Integrated Detection System/ Joint Biological Point Detection System Repairer) and F6 (NBCRV Sensor Suite Maintenance Technician) were diverted to the Korean Peninsula.

* The battalion maintenance officer and a select master NBCRV maintenance NCO attended the Additional Skill Identifier F6 course and an abbreviated Universal Mobile Tester course at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

* 2ID acquired a Universal Mobile Tester for the battalion to conduct services on the Biological Agent Warning System and run diagnostics on the line-replaceable units in the Joint Biological Point Detection System.

* The project manager installed data collectors in two NBCRVs to identify the root causes of maintenance failures with the Chemical Biological Mass Spectrometer.

* Circuit cards were purchased and added to the unit basic load of the NBCRV platoon to replace damaged cards in the Mass Spectrometer Electronics Module and save on Chemical Biological Mass Spectrometer costs.

* Quarterly NBCRV operator and maintenance courses were conducted, with semiannual support from project manager instructors providing training on start-up, operation, troubleshooting, and shutdown procedures for the sensor suites.

With the fielding of DRSKO, there was no requirement for a field service representative for reconnaissance and surveillance platoons; therefore, equipment went straight to the test, measurement, and diagnostic equipment activity for service while consumables were ordered through the usual Army supply system. Furthermore, the equipment was standardized across all assessment teams except CRTs. The battalion extracted the preventive maintenance checks and services from the technical manuals, with equipment identified as requiring weekly and monthly maitenance; consequently, the technical manual was reduced to a 147-page document. Additionally, in the interest of simplicity and a common understanding across the battalion, a standardized bumper format was developed for uploading DRSKO equipment into Standard Army Maintenance System-Enhanced boxes. Due to the unique requirement of the 501st CBRNE Company to maintain its commercial, off-the-shelf equipment, a field service representative contractor was employed to assist with the troubleshooting, service, repair, and evacuation of equipment to the continental United States and the procurement of consumables for commercial, off-the-shelf equipment.

Unit Basic Load

The next sustainment challenge that the 23d CBRNE Battalion tackled was the identification and subsequent funding of the unit basic load required to meet "Fight Tonight" standards. The battalion ordered 72 hours' worth of consumables for its units and enough decontamination solution for three combat arms battalions. In addition, the battalion purchased the new PINS3-CF[R], thus reducing the logistic requirement for liquid nitrogen. Throughout receipt of the unit basic load, all companies continued to improve load plans to account for all classes of supplies during numerous battalion, brigade, and division alert exercises. These exercises refined alert procedures in preparation for wartime missions.

Push Packages

To resupply the newly designed company teams for their wartime mission, the battalion developed push packages for NBCRV reconnaissance platoons, reconnaissance and surveillance platoons, decontamination platoons, CRTs, and explosive ordnance disposal teams. The definition of the sustainment requirement provided a shared (user to theater level) understanding of the WMD resupply system. Push packages consisted of a standard set of consumables that could be adjusted to meet any specific mission requirement. In most cases, standard push packages were requested; however, after conducting a large mission at a biological facility, additional handheld assays and RAZOR[R] EX pouches may be added to the push package for CRTs. Collaborations regarding the contents and cost of push packages were conducted with 1ABCT, 2ID, and the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command during the 2015 2ID WMD Elimination Microexperiment, which was facilitated by the Asymmetric Warfare Group.


While training for two distinct wartime mission sets and meeting "Fight Tonight" deployment readiness requirements, the 23d CBRNE Battalion continues to gather lessons learned regarding the best ways to train and sustain the unit. The battalion makes use of a 6-month training cycle and information gained from annual exercises including Ulchi Freedom Guardian, 2ID WMD Elimination Micro-experiment, Key Resolve, and Warpath to continue to refine tactics, techniques, and procedures and improve combined operations. But these practices are by no means the end state; they merely represent the beginning of an enduring ability to increase tactical and technical expertise while outfitting units for distinct wartime mission sets--all while enduring the continuous personnel turnover in Korea.


(1) The Army time management cycle consists of three phases:

* Red. The red phase, or support period, allows leaders to take advantage of all training opportunities to conduct individual Soldier, leader, and collective training; routine medical, dental, and administrative tasks are typically addressed during this period. Self-development is the key focus during the red phase.

* Amber. The amber phase, or mission training period, focuses on the lowest level of combat power, meaning that crews, squads, and platoons take part in educational and other training; scheduled maintenance and other critical readiness training tasks take place during this phase. The focus of the amber phase is more on the individual, with limited collective training opportunities.

* Green. The green phase, or prime time, focuses primarily on Soldiers and leaders; this type of training often includes collective tasks that are integrated through multi-echelon training. Green-phase training always supports the mission-essential task list objective. Administrative and other activities are eliminated during the green phase to ensure that all Soldiers participate in the training.

Major Little is the S-3 officer, 23d CBRNE Battalion. She holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the U.S. Military Academy-West Point, New York, and a master's degree in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

By Major Denise R. Little and Major Rogelio A. Pineda

Major Pineda is the executive officer, 23d CBRNE Battalion. He holds a bachelor's degree in molecular biology from San Jose State University, San Jose, California, and a master's degree in environmental management from Webster University.
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Author:Little, Denise R.; Pineda, Rogelio A.
Publication:CML Army Chemical Review
Date:Jun 22, 2015
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