Feel the CBRN

The armed forces have gotten out of the habit of practicing for operations under conditions where chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agents have been released, and need to re-instill that discipline, Lt. Gen. Perry Wiggins, head of Army North, told reporters Wednesday. “Not a lot” of servicemembers are practiced “at donning their mask in nine seconds,” he said in a meeting with defense reporters in Washington, D.C. Wiggins, who noted that Ebola and influenza were two of the biggest direct threats to US forces in recent years, said, “We need to get back to the ‘B’ in CBRN.” Perry sees a rising threat from unconventional threats and “we can’t send [troops] in un-trained” to deal with a toxic battlefield. During the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Wiggins said the Army “contracted a lot” of the functions associated with operating technology that senses CBRN threats and “we have to get the green-suiters back” into that expertise. It will take “time and training,” both of which have lost out to higher priorities in recent years, he said. Army North supports FEMA, the National Guard, and other first responders, and Wiggins reported that cooperation between these agencies and the separate states “is about the best I’ve ever seen it,” and that regular exercises involving all the stakeholders “validate” various disaster response plans. In fact, he said there may be an overabundance of response capabilities available now, putting emphasis on “pre-scripted” disaster plans that only tap as much capability as needed.