National Guard is leader in innovation for weapons of mass destruction civil support teams

An explosive ordnance disposal robot driven by Soldiers of 3rd Ordnance Battalion EOD, 71st Ordnance Group EOD, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., makes its way toward an improvised explosive device site during a certification exercise Nov. 18 on JBLM. The exercise was designed to mimic real-world scenarios and test EOD personnel on their capabilities. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, 28th Public Affairs Detachment/Released)

National Guard weapons of mass destruction civil support teams are there to respond to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents throughout the homeland, and advise and assist local and civil authorities on response measures.

A team’s success can often be measured by how quickly they can analyze and identify the threat and provide their assessment for containing the situation to the incident commander.

Innovations to shorten that time, from arrival on site to assessment, are being led by the National Guard Bureau’s Malcolm Reese, the joint program manager for the Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction Division of the NGB’s Operations Directorate.

When Reese saw an innovative opportunity to re-purpose the Army’s Talon IV unmanned robots, he and his team worked alongside other Department of Defense agencies to generate the first robotic CBRN capability within the DOD.

“What we basically did was take a system that was already designed for a particular mission requirement and … re-mission [it] for the civil support teams,” Reese said, whose job is to help validate new technologies that could strengthen CBRN capabilities within the Guard.

The Talon IV was used in Iraq and Afghanistan by explosive ordnance disposal teams. As operations there wound down, the equipment was no longer needed.

To ready the robots for the CBRN mission, chemical, biological, radiological and toxic industrial material sensors were installed, as well as an upgraded communication system, infrared day/night cameras and an autonomous mapping system.

These upgrades allow for remote entry to unknown CBRN environments, Reese said.

“[It] eliminates the need to put Soldiers and Airmen in harm’s way without compromising the mission,” he said.

WMD-CST personnel, as hazardous materials technicians, must don extensive protective equipment before entering a contaminated area.

Reese said that process can take up valuable time, and the protective equipment can be restrictive when conducting reconnaissance to verify the type and extent of contamination. Continue reading.