The Importance of Having CBRNE Defense Capabilities In The Armed Forces

Currently, the whole world stood still over a strain of biological material such as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, now known as the COVID-19 pandemic derived from the SARS-CoV 2 virus where it has been considered as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, highlighting the essentials of securing public health as part of an effort that defines national security and defense in the same manner as HADR or Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response.

And with this current situation comes a much-needed capability in which any nation or country's respective militaries to cope with this kind of threat which, like HADR, does not invoke a hard war that usually involves conventional weapons in a military arsenal that ranges from guns and bombs down to the most sophisticated military assets available such as tanks, frigates, and fighter aircraft.

This is what CBRN Military capability is like.
Image Source.
Since the first case of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Philippines that took place last mid-February up to the various lockdowns that are currently in effect as of this article posting, the country, and its citizen's usual activities are now being put on-hold, rendering the whole nation's economic activity in a standstill as threats from this pandemic originated from Wuhan, China threatens to endanger the lives of the public that is not even immune to it currently.

With it comes with the uncertainty as regards to how long this crisis will last as well as to the progress being made in terms of creating its vaccine which in itself is on its way, doing necessary test trials before being put to mass production which is to ensure that this cure is worth a shot for the people needing it without the worse side effects that the vaccine formulation may bring against the body.

As for the country's current efforts in combatting this pandemic, the Philippine Army deployed its CBRN Unit to disinfect its personnel manning the checkpoints as part of its enforced lockdown in effect which means getting the public remain on their respective residences as they are looking for ways to contain the spread of this virus while taking time before the work-in-process vaccines will be distributed eventually to the people that needs it the most.

Speaking of the military's role in this crisis which is primarily more of a public health-related matter, it is worth notable that the impact that such a pandemic inflicts against the country and its citizens is something that may go considered a national security threat, in a way that it needs to be addressed in the manner that public safety is needed to be prioritized at full while the coordination with health personnel takes place to tackle it up.

This arose a discussion that highlights a certain capability that an Armed Forces is worth having in a national crisis such as this one, wherein this matters a lot in terms not only with the safeguards provided on keeping the people from the harm of a biological threat but also showing the protective measures that are taken regarding this situation as well as others that usually involve safety hazards different from the weapons of conventional warfare.

Certain countries like the United States obtain a school
dedicated to learning this capability.
Image Source.

On its abbreviation, CBRNE Defense means protection of the military's personnel and a bulk of its manpower resources as well as the nation's defense against Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive threats that pose utmost harm to the overall security of the nation's sovereignty and the welfare of its citizens in which it hampers safety and order that requires the skills from these specialized units.

It is with these capabilities that an Armed Forces as well as with relevant uniformed services provide a portion of its pool of personnel by having a highly-dedicated unit designed to be trained thoroughly which is intended to fully acquire the skillsets required in getting this job as it goes different from what is expected of an ordinary trooper that carries a firearm and ammunition intended for combatting in a conventional warfare setting.

Such a capability is not only limited to the Armed Forces or the military but also applicable to other uniformed agencies such as the ones that work with the Firefighting capabilities such as the Philippine Bureau of Fire Protection or law enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police where these agencies, under the Department of Interior and Local Government, may play the role in combatting and decontaminating areas that are highly contained with a harmful material.

So, the deployment of some special units that involve CBRNE defense capabilities means a lot especially if a nation falls under attack that involves things that are in the abbreviation which obtains an intention from a foreign adversary especially in the case of nuclear fallout or others which needs to be mitigated for the safety of the people.

While such defense is meant for mitigating malicious attacks through those nasty things that put the public into harm, they are also not limited to other national security matters such as a worldwide pandemic in which their services are badly needed alongside those of frontline medical workers that also risked lives to contain this massive threat against humanity.

The CBRNE Vehicles of the Philippine National Police.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The importance of having CBRNE Defense Capabilities especially in a national crisis involving a pandemic such as the Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 is shown wherein units in the Armed Forces coming from different service branches - Navy, Air Force, and the Army have recently created standards and also precompose a Training and Readiness Manual for this capability.

It is worth knowing that in those recent developments about the CBRN capabilities through the creation of standards and the week-long training of CBRN instructors in the Service Support Training School of the Philippine Army that followed (24-28 February 2020), this all-new level of interoperability between different CBRN units spanning the three branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is something that definitely went essential as time goes on.

Take note that such capability is also being beefed up further through the AFP Medical Service and the Armed Forces Munition Control Center wherein they help provide participants of that event enhance their skillsets further in deterring any threats that may come through the abbreviations aforementioned as well as increasing the numbers of proficient personnel or CBRN professionals that will help that capability of the Armed Forces on taking decontamination tasks such as the case of the Philippine Army where it deployed its elite CBRN unit to address the threat of the pandemic.

The roles that the CBRN defense units taking in the light of the coronavirus threat is on the disinfection and quarantine of military personnel manning the checkpoints as these measures ensure that the health of the front-liners is safeguarded as well as getting the job of implementing the Luzon-wide lockdown ongoing as an effort to extinguish this threat.

The measures provided only show the ever-increasing importance of CBRN defense capabilities not only in an event of an actual chemical, biological and nuclear attack but also on a worldwide-scale pandemic such as the Coronavirus threat as they keep on ensuring the lives of their fellow troops as well as others in a drive that will help the country back on track and its citizens returning on their normal lives once again.

Philippine Army CBRN
Personnel from the Philippine Army using Personal Protective Equipment
or PPEs for CBRN Defense as they cope up against the COVID-19
Image Source.

As the duration period for enhanced community quarantine lengthens and the cases, along with the casualties getting an increase, so does the gravity of the situation where the roles of CBRN units like those of the Philippine Army seen above gets more and more significant as they help on the role of decontaminating areas and frontline personnel from this disease.

To take note, the Philippine Army should be celebrating its 123rd founding anniversary where if not for the pandemic, such an important event may go push through. Nevertheless, their duties and responsibilities before the nation outweigh more as their works provide that significance on their organization's founding as they are for the defense of the nation, from threats visible and invisible.

In its entirety, the CBRN defense capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, along with its Health Service Command is something that is showing its ideal use these days as they help hand-in-hand in mitigating the spread of the pandemic, something that may help these specialized units provide support and enhance further their skillsets and capabilities to be further prepared along the way shall another case of a public health crisis such as the current coronavirus pandemic may take place in the future.

It is in this way that the military contributes more to the crisis as they get on coordinating with other relevant agencies such as the Department of Health along with its medical personnel wherein they go hand in hand as they risk their lives doing their job on the frontlines especially at these times in need.

Hence, it will be a nice thing to see the unit improved along the way as the crisis may shed some light in providing real-life lessons that is something to be applied in the future, to have a public health situation mitigated at the earliest time possible without any potential disruptions to the citizen's everyday life as what is currently happening today with the lockdowns and extensive quarantines per se.

Defense from Explosives and Counterrorist efforts are
also part of the skillset CBRNE units obtain.

At these times, the role of the personnel working under the specialized CBRNE units of both the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as other uniformed agencies like the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Fire Protection is getting prominent day by day as the pandemic progresses.

It is here that such a role highlights the needs along with the jobs of other units of the Armed Forces and other uniformed agencies as well as the works of the frontline health workers as they go hand in hand that is to mitigate the threats of spreading the coronavirus disease among the citizenry.

It is worth to see that more improvements may come along the way with the units along with their existing capabilities to get more specialties in their dedicated duties and responsibilities which may come more helpful in case another CBRNE-related crisis arise, as such threats may quickly be mitigated along the way which decreases the likelihood of inflicting casualties and harm against the citizenry and their normal way of living.

Having a dedicated unit such as the one for CBRNE defense also connotes having a specialized form of equipment at hand such as personal protective equipment or PPEs in which the Armed Forces employed for their protection in the frontlines, coming in the hopes that it may go covered health personnel as well.

These things being said, the current public health crisis is something that may provide that needed learning experience wherein in sacrifices made comes with all of the ideas and lessons that are worth to bring along the way on their improvement of these skillsets as their duties and responsibilities are in itself the frontline in combatting any upcoming invisible threats on the way and in assuring public safety with minor collateral damage if not a negative one.

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