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NEWS | Feb. 9, 2024

Mountain Dragons improve mission readiness during rotational deployment to Korea

By Walter Ham, 20th CBRNE Command

American Soldiers from a forward deployed U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) company improved their technical and tactical readiness during a nine-month rotational deployment to South Korea.

Soldiers from the Fort Drum, New York-based 59th CBRN Company (Hazardous Response) leveraged unit and individual training opportunities to increase mission readiness.

The 59th CBRN Company “Mountain Dragons” deployed to Camp Casey, South Korea, near the world’s most heavily armed border in support of the 23rd CBRN Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and Eighth Army.

CBRN Soldiers graduated from the Advanced Chemical Biological Course in December 2023. Sponsored by the 23rd CBRN Battalion, the Advanced Chemical and Biological Course was held on Camp Humphreys, South Korea.

A mobile training team from the Special Programs Division on Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, conducted the course.

“The course was an in-depth education on all the chemical and biological agents and targets that Dragon Soldiers might encounter while on mission,” said 1st Lt. Aidan J. Naylor, the executive officer of the 59th CBRN Company.

“The instructors were composed of biologists, chemists and virologists who were informed on the cutting edge of science behind the chemical and biological warfare agents employed by the adversaries of the United States and her allies,” said Naylor. “I was personally grateful for the personable and accessible instruction that the Advanced Chemical and Biological Course team gave to every Soldier who attended the course.”

From the 59th CBRN Company, Naylor, Warrant Officer 1 Hwanglyong Hwangbo, Sgt. 1st Class Alvin Dela Cruz, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Kotz, Staff Sgt. Santos Carlos-Gonzalez, Staff Sgt. John Rybicki, Sgt. Branson Cody, Sgt. Nayara Gomez, Sgt. Sanisha Lewis, Spc. Dennis Chang, Spc. Timothy Crespin, Spc. Jayden Delair, Spc. Hannah Jobes, Spc. Martin Virgil, Spc. Jacob Oliver, Pfc. Sang Kim and Pfc. Won Seo completed the course.

Spc. Dennis Chang, a Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle (NBCRV) surveyor, said the course covered the potential impact of chemical and biological hazards.

“The instructors were passionate about their field of study and explained in detail how the chemical functions down to the molecular level or how the bacteria and virus act in our bodies to make us ill,” said Chang.

The Mountain Dragons also tested their mettle during the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge qualification event, hosted by the 501st Military Intelligence Brigade on Camp Humphreys, South Korea, in January. The course is overseen by the German Armed Forces defense attaché in South Korea.

During the qualification event, Soldiers had to complete a basic fitness test, 100-meter swim in uniform, pistol qualification and 12-kilometer foot march to earn the badge.

Staff Sgt. Stephen Craddock said swimming in uniform was the most challenging part of the qualification event.

“It is one thing to swim with physical training uniforms but it’s a whole different ballgame when we are wearing our duty uniform. It made me realize that we need to be more diverse in our PT planning,” said Craddock. “But I am proud of every single candidate that passed not only the pre-assessment but the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge as a whole.”

Craddock, Sgt. Robert Errington, Cpl. Alexander Cargal, Spc. Dennis Chang, Pfc. Nikolay Zelikov and Pfc. Conner Ossont earned the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge during the qualification event.

Sgt. Robert Errington and Spc. Jacob Oliver earned black belts in Taekwondo during their deployment to the birthplace of the famous martial art. Errington also won a gold medal in a Taekwondo sparring competition at the Kukkiwon, the World Taekwondo Headquarters.

Spc. Jayden Delair also studied Brazilian Ju Jitsu for the first time and competed in two tournaments during the deployment.

“We’ve seen plenty of our Mountain Dragons step outside of their comfort zone this rotation, and it’s been an honor to see the growth they’ve experienced from taking on new challenges,” said Naylor, the company executive officer.

Capt. Evan P. Shortsleeve, the commander of the 59th CBRNE Company, said he has challenged his Soldiers to continue to focus on personal and professional development.

“I remind the 59th CBRN Soldiers of my standing charge every week at closeout formations to be 1 percent better every day,” said Shortsleeve, a native of Litchfield, Connecticut, and graduate of Norwich University.

“Ultimately, some of the best and worst days of our lives will take place when we only have 10 percent in the tank,” said Shortsleeve. “My charge to our Soldiers is to maximize what that 10 percent is capable of so that they can compete and win in their lives and defeat our adversaries in any condition.”

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