Chemical Soldiers Train with New York City Police COBRA Team

Chemical Attack Casualty Training
Personnel check a casualty during a training exercise simulating a joint response to a chemical attack and decontamination situation. Credit: Harley Jelis

Soldiers from the New York Army National Guard’s 222nd Chemical Company sharpened their skills and exchanged lessons learned recently during a joint exercise with cops from the New York Police Department’s Chemical, Ordinance, Biological and Radiological Awareness (COBRA) training team.

The day-long exercise on Nov. 19 took place at the police department’s tactical training village on Rodman’s Neck. The 54 acre facility in the Bronx is the New York Police Department’s main tactical training facility. The facility houses a typical city block and an urban landscape used for tactical training exercises as well as a firing range.

Fifty cadets at the New York City Police academy played casualties as the soldiers and the police officers practiced their ability to locate victims of a chemical attack and decontaminate them efficiently.

“The objective was to conduct a joint exercise with civilians, domestic forces and the Army, and work to understand each other’s techniques,” said Capt. Lawanda Billings, commander of the 222nd Chemical Co.

The 222nd is the decontamination component of the Homeland Response Force charged with responding to incidents in the Federal Emergency Management Agencies Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey.

The company trains regularly on that skill with other military units and has worked with first responders in upstate New York and New Jersey, Billings said. This exercise was a chance to work with the New York City police officers who train other cops on how to cope with chemical and biological and hazardous materials incidents.

For Police Officer Samantha Sonnett, a member of the COBRA training unit, being able to see the 222nd in action helped her understand how the Guard’s capabilities can mesh with those of the police department.

“If we have a major event where you have hundreds or thousands of victims, we need to get those people cleaned off and to medical attention as fast as we can. We don’t do anything like that within our department,” Sonnett noted.

“One of the things that stood out to [the police team] is how we track and monitor casualties,” Billlings noted. “Whether that’s how many casualties came through, or if we need a refuel in suits or not. On a large scale it was an eye opener on the amount of things we have to track on a company level,” she added.

According to Billings, training with the New York City police officers was a great opportunity for her troops. “This is the first time something like this has been done and something we look forward to building upon it in the future,” she added.

Article adapted from original by Harley Jelis, New York National Guard, edited for context and format by CBRNE Central.