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48th CBRN Brigade to Command Ebola Mission in Liberia

Troops from the 48th CBRN Brigade monitor CBRN equipment to detect any possible hazardous contaminants during a training exercise. Photo credit: Terence Ewings

The 48th Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Brigade Headquarters will deploy to Liberia to command the remaining American forces supporting the U.S. effort to contain the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

The brigade cased its unit colors during a ceremony at the III Corps Headquarters on Fort Hood, March 9, prior to its first deployment since being activated in 2007.

As many U.S. troops return home from the Ebola mission in Liberia, the Fort Hood-based CBRN brigade will replace the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) as the joint forces headquarters.

The 48th CBRN Brigade will support the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) and provide oversight of any required follow-on capabilities. Other response functions are being transitioned to civilian personnel.

“Troops are coming home but the United States is not leaving West Africa,” said Col. Sven Erichsen, the commander of the 48th CBRN Brigade.

“The civilian-led response will actually grow in size and number in the weeks ahead to continue the fight against Ebola until there are zero cases,” said Erichsen, a native of Forest Grove, Oregon.

The 48th CBRN Brigade is a part of the 20th CBRNE Command (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives), the U.S. Defense Department’s only formation that combats global CBRNE threats.

The 20th CBRNE Command, headquartered on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is home to more than 85 percent of the Active U.S. Army’s CBRNE capabilities, including two EOD groups, one chemical brigade, Nuclear Disablement Teams, CBRNE Coordination Elements, expeditionary laboratories, remediation and consequence management units.

Another 20th CBRNE Command formation, the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, or 1st AML, deployed to Liberia in October 2014. The 1st AML commanded Task Force Scientist, a joint task force that operated six Ebola testing laboratories in Liberia.

Brig. Gen. JB Burton, the commanding general of the 20th CBRNE Command, said the 48th CBRN Brigade and 1st AML deployments demonstrate the flexibility of his one-of-a-kind command.

“The deployment of the 48th CBRN Brigade Headquarters into Liberia as part of the enduring U.S. commitment to understand and contain the Ebola virus demonstrates that this command and this CBRNE enterprise must be more than Weapons of Mass Destruction focused,” said Burton. “We must be capable of and comfortable with operating effectively across the full spectrum of CBRNE hazards.”

In support of the U.S. Army’s regional alignment efforts, the 48th CBRN Brigade serves with III Corps in Europe, Africa and the Middle East; the 71st EOD Group operates with I Corps in the Asia Pacific region; and the 52nd EOD Group deploys with the XVIII Airborne Corps on Global Response Force missions.

“With the ever evolving CBRNE threats facing our nation, we need to fully leverage and integrate all of our capabilities to confront and defeat CBRNE hazards,” said Burton, a native of Tullahoma, Tennessee.

“This deployment is another important first in the 20th CBRNE Command’s history of service with distinction around the globe,” said Burton.

Article by Walter Ham, 20th CBRNE Command, edited for context and format.

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