SEOUL, Republic of Korea -- American Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s only mobile medical laboratory trained with their South Korean Armed Forces counterparts to strengthen alliance interoperability for counter Weapons of Mass Destruction missions on the Korean Peninsula.
Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 1st Area Medical Laboratory trained with South Korean troops from the Republic of Korea (ROK) Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Defense Command at their headquarters outside of the South Korean capital of Seoul.
Col. Matthew J. Grieser, the commander of the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, said his command has forged an enduring relationship with its counterparts in the ROK CBRN Defense Command and ROK Armed Forces Medical Command.
“The ROK-U.S. Alliance is one of our strongest military alliances in the world and it is important to continue to strengthen interoperability with our Korean counterparts,” said Grieser, a native of Mulino, Oregon, who has deployed to Afghanistan four times and Iraq five times and served in Haiti, Panama and New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
Lt. Col. Brandon S. Pybus, Staff Sgt. Stephen J. Riddick and Spc. Tatyana M. Sluss from the 1st Area Medical Laboratory Chemical Threat Assessment Section trained with their counterparts in the ROK CBRN Defense Command field analytical laboratory.
The ROK CBRN Defense Command Chemical Section is a mobile organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-certified analytical capability for theater validation of chemical warfare agents, their precursors and degradation products.
“This engagement served to cross-level laboratory capabilities for Command Joint Task Force-Elimination and enabled critical pre-coordination for sample sharing, equipment interoperability, communications and technical analysis,” said Pybus.
A biochemist from Dothan, Alabama, Pybus joined the U.S. Army out of a desire to apply his skills and expertise to protecting U.S. troops.
“Academic life is all about chasing funding and publications, often with applicability of any discovery years in the future,” said Pybus. “By necessity, the Army does its best to accelerate the fielding of technical advances into the hands of the Soldier. As a Medical Service Corps Officer, I take great pride in playing some small part in ensuring that our Soldiers have the most advanced medical countermeasures available for far-forward use.”
Maj. Andrew A. Clack and Spc. Jasmine A. Crewell from the 1st Area Medical Laboratory Occupational and Environmental Health Section trained with troops from the ROK CBRN Defense Command Radiation Mobile Laboratory.
The 1st AML team members were given an in-depth tour of the mobile radiation laboratory and discussed equipment and software use, precision analysis and safety guidelines.
“The team members discussed and trained with personal dosimeters, background radiation survey meters, gamma surface-contamination detectors, hand-held neutron detectors and hand-held high-purity germanium nuclide analyzers,” said Clack, who is from Pittsburgh.
An Environmental Science and Engineering officer, Clack previously deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom and Cambodia for a goodwill mission.
Clack said the U.S. and South Korean teams have similar equipment and management methods.
“This bodes well for future joint engagements in not only lab operations but site assessment, sample collection and management,” said Clack.
The Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland-based 1st Area Medical Laboratory is part of the 44th Medical Brigade and 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. Department of Defense’s premier all hazards formation. American Soldiers and Army civilians from the 20th CBRNE Command deploy from 19 bases in 16 states to tackle the world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and allied operations.
In addition to the one-of-a-kind 1st Area Medical Laboratory, the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland-headquartered 20th CBRNE Command is home to 75 percent of the U.S. Army’s active-duty Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians and CBRN specialists, as well as the CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity, five Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordination Teams and three Nuclear Disablement Teams.
Maj. Nicholas A. Magno and Maj. Joshua M. Carmen from the 1st Area Medical Laboratory met with their counterparts in the ROK CBRN Defense Command’s biological threat assessment field analytical laboratory to coordinate for counter Weapons of Mass Destruction missions.
Assigned to the 1st Area Medical Laboratory Occupational and Environmental Health Section, Magno also serves as the chief of Education and Training for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense.
“Along with my physician training as a basis, these two jobs have shaped me into a chemical warfare agent subject matter expert,” said Magno. “In this role, I feel a great purpose when assisting in domestic and joint operations, which is something I don’t believe I would have had if I followed the path of a civilian physician.”
A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Magno said he felt drawn to serve in the U.S. Army because of his family legacy of defending freedom on the Korean Peninsula.
“I joined the Army because my father had served in the Korean War, and I wanted to explore the exciting opportunities the Army has to offer for physicians. As compared to my civilian counterparts, Army physicians have an unlimited potential for leadership, travel and to become an expert in fields which many civilians do not get access to,” said Magno.
As the ROK-U.S. Alliance marks its 70th anniversary this year, the 1st Area Medical Laboratory and 20th CBRNE Command continue to support the alliance and to contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula and stability in Northeast Asia.