The U.S. Army Reserve’s only Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear response unit, the 773rd Civil Support Team, passed its CBRN external evaluation conducted by U.S. Army North Sept. 15.
Prior to the evaluation, the 7th Civil Support Command’s 773rd CST went through an intense 10-day training period in the run-up to the final evaluation.
The ARNORTH mobile training team traveled to Germany from the U.S. to conduct the training and evaluation. During the pre-evaluation timeframe, eight ARNORTH observer/controller-trainers mentored the unit’s Soldiers.
“Everyone is trained on the equipment,” said Capt. Jason Zdunich, 773rd CST operations officer. “Areas that are a focus during the train-up to the external evaluation are familiarization with the equipment, communications and analytical analysis of the site. We have to figure out if it is biological or chemical.
“ARNORTH conducts the external evaluation according to U.S. Army doctrine every 18 months,” he continued.
“The 773rd (CST) experienced a 50 percent turnover in personnel two months ago,” said Lt. Col. Leslie Dillard, 773rd Civil Support Team commander.
“As Soldiers PCS in and out and the unit reaches a certain turnover rate, we have to be evaluated to make sure we can do the mission,” Zdunich said, “just like other units have to do mission readiness exercises.”
The 773rd CST’s mission is to support European and Africa commands in response to a CBRN incident. If the unit is sent to a suspected site, they would identify CBRN agents/substances; assess current and projected consequences before, during and after an incident; advise the on-site incident commander on response measures; and assist with appropriate requests for support.
During the external evaluation’s culminating event on Sept. 15, the observer/controller-trainers became observer/controllers only and then graded the unit on their CBRN response and tasks.
“Personnel and equipment change all the time,” said 1st Sgt. Jeremy Mann, 773rd CST NCOIC. “They come in and see what the Soldiers have learned and train our new Soldiers on equipment changes and CBRN procedures.”
The 773rd CST recently received new vehicles and CBRN equipment, including a mobile lab to detect pathogens.
“The fact that we exceeded the standards and expectations is a testament to the dedication of all 773rd Soldiers and their families,” Dillard said. “I told them failure is not an option, and they responded. I am very proud of their performance.”
The U.S. Army progressive readiness cycle requires that the 773rd CST maintain itself as a ready and deployable unit 24/7, Zdunich said.
“This unit is on call 24 hours a day,” Mann said. “The ex-eval (external evaluation) tested our ability and flexibility to work these off hours. In the future, when first responders go into an unknown situation and realize they have something bigger than they can deal with, they call for support. We are that support.”