CAMP STANLEY, Republic of Korea (March 18, 2016) – Soldiers entered the dark, cold, damp building to find chemical and biological weapons. Their response was crucial to the mission ahead. They would check specimens from every crevice because what was found in the building would be needed in preparing a case against war crimes.
U.S. Soldiers and Koreans Augmented to the U.S. Army with the 23rd Chemical Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, from Camp Stanley, South Korea, joined together with different chemical units from all over South Korea and maneuver units from Fort Hood, Texas to conduct a quarterly training on Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Explosive Combined Exploitation Evaluation on Camp Mobile, Republic of Korea, March 15.
Approximately 700 Soldiers, KATUSAs, and ROK Army soldiers trained as a team to stay certified during the CBRNE ExEval. They took part in a series of 28 drills over 18 days.
“This training is a normal readiness training to be prepared to go into any WMD (weapons of mass destruction) site,” said Lt. Col. Adam Hilburgh, 23rd Chemical Battalion commander.
The teams trained for 18 days with seven CBRNE units, five Explosive Ordnance Disposal units, five ROK CBRNE Response Team units, an infantry company and a black hawk company all in Mission Oriented Protective Posture, Level-4, the highest level of CBRNE protection to include tape sealing gloves and boots from any contamination.
Before the chemical teams entered the site, the infantry platoons escorted by CBRN initial entry teams cleared the building looking for any IEDs, hazards and enemy personnel.
As they entered the dark chemistry lab in a dilapidated building, they found 55-gallon drums with florescent liquid on top, empty munitions shells, a filling station and a chemical lab with signs in Hangul that read “quality inspection.”
The teams reported their findings and received verification from the 23rd Chemical Battalion to clear the weapons site before continuing the mission.
“Our guys need to be able to identify what’s going on and understand what’s on the site and understand what’s there,” said Hilburgh. “We use the current intelligence picture to tailor our training to that.”
The teams continued checking the exploitation site while being evaluated by observer controllers to make sure they were executing the proper sampling or “bag and tag” procedures.
They placed all unfamiliar items in a clear mid-size bag and shipped it to the chemical lab to be analyzed. These samples were taken on the site and would be used to prosecute war criminals in international court.
“We tried to give our platoon troop leaders a lot of the time with the procedures and the planning,” said Capt. Joshua Frey, operations officer, 23rd Chemical Battalion. “The junior officers and noncommissioned officers really developed over the last three missions as they executed during the training.”