My Coast Guard
Commentary | June 28, 2022

Office of Specialized Capabilities bolsters weapons of mass destruction readiness during training exercise

By Jennifer Osetek, Coast Guard Office of Specialized Capabilities/CWMD Program

The graduating class of 2022 is ready for anything, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attack. 

Just before graduation, several senior cadets participated in Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) training as part of a pilot program organized by the Coast Guard Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Program in the Office of Specialized Capabilities (CG-721). This training was the inaugural offering to senior class cadets before they enter the fleet to their first assignments as commissioned officers. The cadets participated in online training and then underwent a practical training scenario offered by the Special Missions Training Center (SMTC). As the threat of CBRN incidents increase, it is critical to train and raise awareness for our future leaders.  

The soon to be ensigns were excited to suit up in masks and protective equipment as they prepared for their upcoming roles. In the course introduction, the cadets learned about the history of CBRN events, including anthrax attacks on Capitol Hill, Word War II German mustard shells caught in fishing nets off the East Coast, the Ebola pandemic, screening ships off Fukushima following nuclear events, chemical weapons in Syria, and the COVID-19 pandemic were used to illustrate the diverse threat that makes this capability so important.  

Capt. Art Ray, the Coast Guard Academy commandant of cadets, observed portions of the course and the practical CBRN personal protective equipment (PPE) training. The Office of Specialized Capabilities will continue to work with the academy's science department to incorporate CBRN training into coursework and the curriculum there.  

CWMD program manager Tom Murphy worked with the academy to establish this training opportunity as another step towards raising CBRN awareness service-wide. Though CBRN is not a statutory mission of the service, Murphy described it as an operating environment that servicemembers might encounter while executing statutory missions. In addition to PPE designed for incident response, the Coast Guard also counters global and domestic proliferation of weapons, dual use materials, and precursors that move in the maritime domain. Our first line of defense to prevent proliferation of these substances and their delivery systems is the identification and interdiction of these threats prior to their entering, or departing, a U.S. port. Early interdiction and identification can limit the magnitude of any incident, particularly in the case of WMD/CBRN release.