The successfulness of joint operations start with strong partnerships fostered over time, and the relationships needed begin long before the operation even starts.
Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 588th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and 71st Chemical Company, 303rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, 8th Military Police Brigade, partnered with an element of the Kuwait National Guard – Chemical Defense Division, May 14, 2015, to conduct a joint chemical attack and response exercise.
“The purpose of this exercise is to build relationships with Kuwait’s National Guard Force as we integrate chemical attack and response techniques and procedures together to complete a mission,” said 1st Lt. Linsey LaBarge, chemical platoon leader, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 588th BEB.
The exercise scenario involved a simulated vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) armed with chemical agent and in a municipal area. After its detonation, simulated casualties laid throughout the training area.
“Our job was to confirm or deny the presence of a chemical agent and to secure the decontamination site,” said LaBarge.
Using two U.S. Stryker Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicles and a Kuwaiti mobile chemical reconnaissance vehicle, the chemical teams moved swiftly to assess the situation.
The “casualties” were collected and given medical care by members of the Kuwait National Guard and 71st Chemical Company. Kuwait National Guard members also provided decontamination equipment to be used in the exercise.
This was the first partnership exercise for Sgt. Lucious Arter, chemical team leader, 71st Chemical Company, who expressed the advantage of being a part of the event.
“There’s a difference in being a chemical soldier in a heavy unit versus light unit,” said Arter. “Picking up different ideas and learning from this exercise makes me become better at my job, and enhances my unit.”
Partnership exercises with personnel from multiple nations pose unique opportunities as well as challenges in communicating, said LaBarge.
“It takes patience as a leader to explain how to do something together in a way that we can understand each other due to language barriers,” said LaBarge.
Using hand and arm signals, diagrams and chemical markers, the partnered units were able to successfully communicate throughout the event.
“It took a lot of rehearsing and teamwork to come up with innovative ideas to communicate without interpreters,” said LaBarge. “We used different indicators to signal how to move together as a team.”
Increasing interoperability between these units is important to increasing readiness for all units involved in the exercise.
The events we are doing together now will better prepare us should we need to conduct missions together in the future, said LaBarge.
First Lt. Khaled al-Fadhli, commander of decontamination, Chemical Defense Division, Kuwait National Guard, expresses his appreciation of the partnership between his unit and the U.S.
“We are happy to partner with the U.S. Army. We have different experiences and we’re making ourselves better while working with each other,” said al-Fadhli. “This helps us because we could possibly work together in a real situation and not just during this exercise.”
588th BEB is currently deployed to Southwest Asia conducting a security cooperations and partnership mission.
“This was a great exercise for both U.S. and Kuwaiti military forces,” said Sgt. Adam Tanvas, chemical specialist, 588th BEB, 3rd ABCT. “I’m better for being part of it and look to further opportunities to work together.”