IDAHO NATIONAL LABORATORY, Idaho -- American Soldiers from Nuclear Disablement Team (NDT) 2 and South Korean troops from the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) Nuclear Characterization Teams (NCT) honed their skills at America’s premier nuclear research facility, Oct. 18 - 22.
The specialized allied units took part in the Nuclear Infrastructure, Assessment and Characterization Course at Idaho National Laboratory.
In support of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) Cooperative Threat Reduction Directorate, the U.S. Army NDT members observe and mentor the South Korean NCT members in select training events twice a year.
U.S. Army NDT members mentor their counterparts in planning, detector employment techniques, battle tracking, decontamination procedures and other aspects of nuclear infrastructure exploitation operations.
Led by ROK Army Maj. Ji-ho Chae and ROK Army Maj. Sen-jin Kwon, 19 South Korean NCT troops completed the DTRA-sponsored course.
“The team has been very satisfied with the training,” said Chae. “We will used the lessons we learned to adjust our doctrine.”
Kwon said the course gave his team the opportunity to train at a world class facility.
“This has been the first time the team has seen a real facility,” said Kwon. “The teams learned a lot and there is more to be learned.”
There have been six similar events between the teams since 2018.
“This is my first partnership event with the NCT,” said Maj. Ariel A. Alcaide, a nuclear operations officer from NDT 2. “Having shared understanding between the teams allow us to have common operating picture and relevant products to support the battlespace commander.”
Alcaide said the two main differences between the U.S. and South Korean teams are their unit composition and mission. The South Korean teams include Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) personnel from the ROK Army, ROK Navy and ROK Air Force who are part of the joint ROK CBRN Defense Command.
“The other difference is that the (U.S. Army) NDT has the unique on order mission — disablement — as reflected by the team’s name,” said Alcaide, a former military intelligence officer who served as a nuclear logistics planner aboard the U.S. Strategic Command’s Airborne Command Post. “All differences aside, both the NCTs and NDTs serve as the premier nuclear infrastructure characterization asset of their respective states.”
As frontline warriors who directly contribute to the nation’s strategic deterrence, U.S. Army NDTs exploit and disable nuclear and radiological Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) infrastructure and components to deny near-term capability to adversaries and they facilitate follow-on WMD elimination operations.
NDT members also serve with U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Response Teams in the interagency National Technical Nuclear Forensics Ground Collection Task Force on a rotational basis.
The three U.S. Army NDTs are the only units of their kind in the U.S. military. The teams are part of the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland-headquartered 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command.
From 19 bases in 16 states, Soldiers and civilians from 20th CBRNE Command take on the world’s most dangerous threats and hazards.
The 20th CBRNE Command and ROK CBRN Defense have a long-standing partnership that has been forged during exercises and events.
A Granada Hills, California, native who has deployed to Afghanistan, Alcaide said the partnership with the South Korean teams is another example of the enduring strength of the ROK-U.S. Alliance, an alliance that has defended freedom for more than 71 years.
“Mission specific events such as the NCT-NDT partnership reinforces the commitment to security in the Korean Peninsula including the stability within the region,” said Alcaide. “Partnership events enable readiness and interoperability between the teams ensuring that the CBRN force is ready to fight tonight.”
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ronald C. Lenker, the NDT 2 team chief, has been involved events with the South Korean NCTs since the Defense Threat Reduction Agency-Cooperative Threat Reduction program began three years ago.
"I've been privileged to have participated in five out of six NCT-NDT partnerships since 2018,” said Lenker, an 18-year Army veteran from Wiconisco, Pennsylvania, who has deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. “Since then, I've seen the NCTs continually improve their ability to execute their mission with the help of their DTRA-CTR training partners. It has been my honor to share tactics, techniques and procedures with the NCTs and learn from them as well."