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NEWS | July 7, 2023

Double Dragons strengthen ROK-US Alliance during deployment to South Korea

By Walter T. Ham IV

Soldiers from a U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) company returned home to Fort Cavazos, Texas, following a nine-month rotational deployment to South Korea.

During the deployment, Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 181st Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Company (Hazardous Response) “Double Dragons” served alongside the 23rd CBRN Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division and Eighth Army and contributed to security on the Korean Peninsula and stability in Northeast Asia.

The Double Dragons transferred mission responsibility to American Soldiers from the Fort Drum, New York-based 59th CBRN Company “Mountain Dragons,” who have taken on the same mission near the world’s most heavily guarded border.

The 181st CBRN Company (Hazardous Response) is part of the 2nd CBRN Battalion and the 59th CBRN Company serves in the 83rd CBRN Battalion.

Both highly trained units are assigned to the 48th Chemical Brigade and 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. military’s premier all hazards command.

American Soldiers and U.S. Army civilians from the 20th CBRNE Command deploy from 19 bases in 16 states to take on the world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and allied operations.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Whitworth, the 3rd Platoon Leader from the 181st CBRN Company, said the Double Dragons trained with American and South Korean troops during the deployment, including the Republic of Korea’s Army 17th Infantry Division.

“Learning and sharing our standards and practices enable us to establish a common understanding amongst all leadership,” said Whitworth. “This enhanced our joint capabilities to operate seamlessly in real-world event and strengthened our relationship with the ROK Army.”

Whitworth said the highlight of the deployment was serving as the Initial Entry Team during Exercise Goldmine, a counter Weapons of Mass Destruction exercise with the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment. The Republic of Korea Air Force and Explosive Ordnance Disposal units also supported the counter WMD exercise.

“Our integration with these units was vital to improving the CBRN defense postures on the peninsula,” said Whitworth, a native of Shelby, North Carolina. “Our training has established to both our unit and the units we support that we are the key enabler of defending and winning the battle if we are called upon to defend Korea.”

Sgt. Robert A. Cross, an Initial Entry Team leader, said Exercise Goldmine gave them the opportunity to train with scouts, engineers and EOD techs.

A native of Yuma, Arizona, and graduate of the University of Arizona, Cross joined the U.S. Army to serve his nation and challenge himself. He said the deployment improved the ability of his company to achieve their high stakes mission in support of military operations around the world.

“This deployment has enhanced the Double Dragons immensely,” said Cross. “Soldiers are even more readily trained and proficient to take on a real-world mission if called upon. The Double Dragons have created a shared understanding to higher command as enablers that CBRN is a critical asset in any training or real-world mission set.”

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Paul A. Serino, the 1st Platoon Leader, said the company also helped to provide a smoke screen during a river or wet gap crossing exercise with the ROK Army’s 11th Chemical Battalion and the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Called Operation Warrior Strike, the wet gap exercise was designed to enable combat units to overcome obstacles and outmaneuver enemy forces.

“Their efforts enabled the Double Dragons to conduct mounted CBRN reconnaissance while integrated with 11th Engineer Battalion,” said Serino. “This combined training improved our mission proficiency, thereby improving the CBRN defensive posture of the peninsula.”

Originally from Beverly, Massachusetts, Serino earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Steven E. Ringgold, the 2nd Platoon Leader, said the exercise enabled the company to focus on preparing to support maneuver forces during large-scale combat operations against a near-peer adversary on a CBRNE contested battlefield.

“The highlight of the deployment was the division validation exercise where the entire company was attached to different maneuver units, allowing us to execute real-world training and refine tactics, techniques and procedures. This specific exercise improved the company's ability to integrate and improve the Army’s large-scale combat operations,” said Ringgold, a graduate of California State University-Fresno and native of Porterville, California.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dan Perez, the company warrant officer, served as a liaison with the Republic of Korea Army’s 17th Infantry Division during the deployment.

Perez said the deployment made the Double Dragons better able to conduct their lifesaving and mission-enabling mission on the modern battlefield.

“This deployment pushed leaders and Soldiers to become better in not only their assigned Military Occupational Specialty duties but as well as individuals and team members,” said Perez, who is from Lawrence, Massachusetts. “The training events and challenges faced throughout the deployment will be used as lessons learned for everyone and will make them more calloused for future challenges wherever they may go.”

Spc. Justhin C. Torres said he facilitated communications with Republic of Korea Army communication personnel during the deployment. Torres is originally from Oxford, North Carolina.

Torres said the deployment to the Korean Peninsula made the Double Dragons even more fierce and capable of enabling combat operations.

“Whatever comes next, we’ll be prepared and ready,” said Torres.

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