VUGHT, Netherlands —
Interoperability is the ability of military equipment or groups to operate in conjunction with each other. Since NATO’s inception in 1949, allies and partners have been striving to improve interoperability. The 773rd Civil Support Team and Netherlands Defense CBRN Centrum planned to conduct a CBRN training event to exercise interoperability last spring; however, the COVID-19 pandemic compelled both organizations to delay plans.
The plan came into fruition on July 8, 2020, when the 773rd CST joined their Netherlands counterparts to finally conduct the exercise. The one-day chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear situational training exercise focused on a CBRN incident on a maritime vessel at the Dutch Harbor in Gravendeel, Netherlands. The Netherlands response force includes police, fire department, emergency managers, explosive ordnance disposal, medical, and environmental support, which makes up the country's Incident Response System.
The training event allowed 773rd CST to observe and understand Defense Support to Civil Authorities operations in the Netherlands, and helped demonstrate communications, equipment, and command and control interoperability as the two forces simultaneously responded to the incident, ultimately saving lives and mitigating suffering.
Maj. Ralph Scott, 773rd CST commander, was satisfied with the outcome of the exercise. "I was impressed by the Netherlands’ ability to truly demonstrate DSCA. Their defense forces provided some technical expertise, but the civil authorities provided a majority of the needed resources and were truly in charge of the incident,” Scott declared.
The event also created a venue for 773rd CST to learn the CBRN capabilities of a NATO ally, actually using their detection equipment and decontamination system. Staff Sgt. William Haynes, Survey Team Chief for the exercise was thankful for the opportunity to conduct CBRN operations on a maritime vessel for the very first time. "Learning how to execute CBRN site characterization in a new environment made this training event worthwhile and the fact that we operated alongside our Dutch partners made it even better," said Haynes.
773rd CST commander’s intent for the exercise was for the unit to improve interoperability with Netherlands CBRN Forces. Kapitein Tom Martens, CBRN Staff Officer of the Netherlands CBRN Response Unit believes the outcome of the exercise met Scott’s intent.
"The 773rd CST showed interest in our CBRN capabilities and also showed a tremendous amount of interest in our people," Martens said. "After hours, these fine Americans wanted to spend more time together to bond and learn more about our culture, which is something my Soldiers and I really appreciated."
Because of the training exercise, the two forces now understand each other’s CBRN capability, incident response structure and procedures, and can respond simultaneously to incidents throughout the Netherlands. The forces pledged to cultivate the new relationship by conducting similar operations yearly in order to continue to improve interoperability.