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News | June 21, 2018

NORAD and USNORTHCOM host CBRN exercise

By Lt. Col. Karen Roganov Joint Task Force Civil Support

More than 95 personnel from the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear community gathered here to advance the enterprise during the Vista Crossing Tabletop Exercise and International CBRN Summit here June 12-13.

“We continue the drumbeat of preparedness and readiness,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Peggy Combs, chief of staff for North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command and USNORTHCOM), sponsor of the exercise.

Combs, a career chemical corps officer, gave opening remarks and foot-stomped the importance of international and interagency partnerships and the total force when responding to a complex catastrophic CBRN event.

Participants from more than 30 organizations across the United States and Canada took part in the exercise and summit.  They divided their time between the summit briefings provided by subject matter experts and conducting the table top exercise, which involved a CBRN incident in Canada near the U.S. border.

Some attendees from Canada said the gathering was beneficial.

“This increased our situational awareness and expanded our understanding of actions and reactions on both sides of the border during a CBRN response, to include expectation management,” said Canadian Army Maj. Ronald Roy, North American desk officer for CBRN Operations, Canadian Joint Operations Command, based in Ottawa.

The summit topics involved detection capabilities; standardization of personal protective equipment; robotic systems; unmanned aerial vehicles for assessments; and the risks involved in using CBRN forces for all hazards events among others.

During the exercise, United States participants discussed the details involved in assisting Canada with a CBRN response.

This included legalities and permissions for cross-border procedures in the areas of medical assistance, decontamination and force protection.

In response to some of the crosstalk that came up during the summit, Mr. Thomas Murphy, CBRNE program manager, Office of Specialized Capabilities, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C., said “This is not a DoD issue, this is a State Department issue.”

 “That’s why these types of conferences are important,” said Stephen Cichocki, USNORTHCOM CBRN Response Program manager and event host. “You meet who you would need to call during a crisis.”