Hundreds of military personnel descended on the Umatilla Army Depot this weekend to participate in a training most hope they’ll never have to use. The exercise, called “Dragon Fire,” involves troops from several CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives) battalions, all of whom are trying to learn how to decontaminate an area that may be threatened by weapons of mass destruction.

“If called upon, we have to be able to identify and understand a nation’s WMD infrastructure, disable it and render it inoperable to some extent,” said Col. Christopher Cox. “Umatilla is on a former chemical weapons site. Should we need to go somewhere, that provides us the maximum realism. You can’t replicate that anywhere in the U.S.”

The exercise took months to plan. About 350 troops started the 10-day exercise in Yakima, Washington, then they deployed to Satsop, Washington, the site of a never-completed nuclear power plant in western Washington. At Satsop, the troops were provided scenarios that mimicked potential chemical or nuclear target situations they might encounter. Troops had to collect information at the site, some of which sent them to the Umatilla Army Depot. There, they had to confirm or deny what they found at other sites. Continue reading.