Between 22 February and 9 March 2022, during which time Russia invaded Ukraine, hundreds of US Guard, Canadian military forces and civilian first responders, responded to a simulated large-scale natural disaster during Exercise Arctic Eagle-Patriot 22 (AEP22).

More than 900 US Air and Army National Guard personnel from 15 states are participating in the joint exercise in Alaska.

Agencies ranging from the US Marine Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) to Canadian chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) elements, the 81st Civil Support Team, North Dakota National Guard, the 95th CBRN Company, US Army Alaska, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and search and rescue K-9s gathered at the Anchorage Fire Training Center for part of the mock disaster.

“Our big focus here is if there was a hospital that collapsed, what kind of casualties we have and what rescue operations are needed,” said Capt. Jacob Sommerfeld, North Dakota Army National Guard, 81st Civil Support Team. “Also, with regard to hazmat considerations for certain medical radioactive isotopes, the detection and or location of some of those hazards in a timely efficient fashion and how to handle them properly.”

The exercise allowed the participants to test new capabilities. Decontamination techniques using moisture in freezing weather can cause a casualty more harm. Therefore, teams tested different situations and scenarios and researched implementing this new method of dry decontamination.

During the exercise, a helicopter provided a live feed for monitoring troop movements and areas to be used to set up a new command post or a safe refugee for evacuees. A Stryker armoured vehicle with CBRN detection equipment patrolled the area to mark anything deemed hazardous notionally.

“The M1135 Stryker variant has the capability to detect chemical, biological and radiological contamination and the capability to sample biological and chemical,” said US Army Sgt. Christian Greg, team leader, 1st Platoon, 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 95th CBRN Company. “In a natural disaster or domestic response, we would be able to clear areas for medical evacuation, for shelter and for first responders to occupy.”

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Image: Canadian CBRN elements taking part in Exercise Arctic Eagle-Patriot 22.  (US Army)