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Dragon Fire

Joint American/German CBRN training

An EOD technician takes a good look at a potential bomb during Operation Dragon Fire. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Fog covered the top of the two nuclear cooling towers at the abandoned SATSOP Nuclear Power Plant outside of Elma, WA.

For the past several days, the towers and the surrounding buildings had served as training sites for Operation Dragon Fire, a joint American/German hazardous response exercise.

With soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd ID providing security, the 48th CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) Brigade from Fort Hood, Texas, and the 46th Chemical Company from Fort Bliss Texas partnered with the German Bundeswehr CBRN Defense Command from Druschsal, Germany.

Both the 46th and 48th are under the direction of the 20th CBRN Command, located at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

Approximately 350 American soldiers and 20 Germans participated in the exercise.

Given the variety of situations of a chemical, biologic, radiologic or nuclear variety that can occur in the world, the 20th and allied soldiers train hard.

"The training facilities you Americans have are better than ours," commented German Capt. Alexander Danner as he and several of his soldiers set up at decontamination station.

"They are bigger, and the training scenarios are much more complicated."

Prior to training at SATSOP, the allies had conducted training at the Yakima Training Center and Umatilla.

In a small shack stuck in the shadows of the towers and temporarily serving as a command post, Capt. Chet Garner posted a list of three training sites.

"These are the scenarios for today" he said.

"This operation is a dynamic operation that tests our multiple and interoperational capabilities."

Garner, company commander of the 46th, spoke to both his and Danner's soldiers before the training began.

"Work hard; be safe; you all know your jobs."

The group broke off to prepare - there would be three CRTs, or CBRN Response Teams, two American and one German.

"Our allies will set up a decontamination line," pointed out Maj. Ryan Donald, a public affairs officer with the 20th, "and our soldiers will enter the buildings and treat any injuries."

Soldiers from the 46th Chemical Company would enter Building Number 14, where a radiologic threat awaited.

"We may have to be lowered down into a tunnel to find the threat," commented Sgt. Talon Hart as he wiggled into a climbing harness.

Others soldiers in the CRT loaded gear into a Polaris Razor.

"We can bring a lot to work with this in vehicle," commented Sgt. Frank Medina.

As the six-person team rolled up on the building at the rear of the east tower, an improvised explosive device, or IED, was discovered.

The Razor stopped and then slowly backed away.  

Two EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) technicians assigned to the CRT dismounted and began the pain-staking process of finding and then disarming the device.

"It takes a while to do this work," commented SSgt. William Ely, 20th CBRN, "but it is part of the training we do in order to keep others safe."

A technician soon found and painstakingly disarmed the IED.  

"The time it takes is not important," said Ely.

"What matters is the training is done, and done in a way that ensures the safety of our soldiers, our allies and our citizens."

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