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The Best Army CBRN Units in the World

Nuclear strikes. Bioweapons. Chemical warfare false flags. These are but a few of the news headlines that we see on a daily basis. The more one hears about these potential threats, the more one begins to wonder about the men and women who are directly involved in dealing with such things. There are plenty of army CBRN units throughout the world, but we want to take a moment to look at the best of the best.

When it comes to finding the CBRN military units with the most training, most knowledge, best gear, and best soldiers, three nations are at the top of the list. There are certainly other competent CBRN soldiers in other countries, but this list includes what the bulk of the world considers the cream of the crop.

You may be surprised at who makes the cut.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • 01

    The United States of America

  • 02

    Czech Republic

  • 03

    Russia

  • 04

    No matter where you live, there’s an army CBRN unit near you.

  • 05

    FAQs

The United States of America

Without a doubt, the best CBRN units in the world are American. The United States is home to some of the brightest scientists the world has ever seen, and all of that brain power combined with American money makes for some very effective laboratories and well-trained military CBRN units.

20th CBRNE Command

Under the umbrella of the US Army, the 20th CBRNE Command has control over US Forces Command (FORSCOM) and provides the manpower and gear for Joint Task Force units throughout the country. It comprises over 5,000 military and civilian personnel scattered across 16 states and performs common CBRN tasks such as sample collection, identification, and analysis; HAZMAT transportation; decontamination; munitions destruction; and threat detection.

The CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity (CARA), 48th Chemical Brigade, 52nd Ordnance Group (EOD), 71st Ordnance Group (EOD), and Consequence Management Group all fall under its jurisdiction.

One of the many tools the 20th CBRNE Command has at its disposal is the Hazard Assessment Simulation and Prediction Suite (HASP). HASP is a software program that allows CBRN troops to predict how a plume of chemical or biological agents is likely to spread. With this knowledge, the 20th CBRNE Command can direct resources to exactly where they need to be without wasting manpower.

In 2021, the 20th CBRNE Command removed and destroyed mustard gas munitions from Camp Kendrick, where chemical weapons were tested during World War I.

CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity (CARA)

CARA is a conglomeration of soldiers and civilians with special training in microbiology, medical science, and related fields. It consists of approximately 3,500 soldiers and 225 civilians, all working in strategic locations in 16 states across the Union.

They’ve recently been involved in three major newsworthy missions and 12 other emergency responses. The majority of what they do involves biowarfare, as they do field analysis and microbiology work. Still, they can be engaged in other aspects of CBRNE as well.<

Marine Chemical Biological Incident Response Force

Anytime you talk about the best of the best, you must bring the US Marine Corps into the conversation. With 300+ US Marines, the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force is a force to be reckoned with.

The men and women in this force are separated into six departments: Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Technical Search and Rescue, Decontamination, Medical, Identification and Detection, Search and Rescue/Casualty Extraction.

Despite such specialization, each marine must know the basics of navigating through a collapsed structure, removing casualties from the field, providing basic medical care for the spectrum of CBRNE exposures, and assisting in decontamination procedures.

Should there be a CBRNE attack or event on US soil, this force will immediately dispatch the identification and detection specialists to the scene. These marines will gather the intel needed for the force to make appropriate battlefield decisions. Search and rescue is then brought in to remove casualties to be cared for by the medical triage team, who are then moved to decontamination and finally to the advanced medical team.

This force is roughly divided into two equal battalions of 150 marines known as Initial Response Forces (IRF). While one IRF is monitoring the US 24/7 and ready for rapid deployment, the second IRF can be deployed within 48 hours after an attack. Additionally, all of the marines in this force can self-deploy to the scene of a CBRNE attack without the need for bureaucratic procedures.

US Army Chemical Corps

Formerly known as the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS), this US Army corps was first formed in 1918 at the tail end of World War 1. Despite a long and bumpy history of weathering public opinion and bureaucracy, the US Army Chemical Corps is still around.

Members of the Chemical Corps testing new equipment

Their main job is to defend the United States against any form of chemical weapons attack. They help protect against attacks by state-level foreign agents and terrorists. They do this by assisting with the hardening of US military institutions to protect them from CBRN threats, training other soldiers, and keeping adequate stockpiles of equipment at the ready for rapid deployment should there be a chemical attack on the United States.

CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Packages (CERFP)

Under the command of the National Guard, there are currently 17 CERFPs throughout the United States strategically positioned for rapid deployment to the scene of a CBRN threat on American soil. Their job is to protect Americans by monitoring for threats, analyzing samples, assisting in decontamination, and assisting in providing stability to an area that has been hit by a CBRN agent.

CERFP training exercise, 2013

A CERFP advance team can be deployed to ground zero of an attack within three hours, while the main body of CERFP can deploy within six hours of an attack.

CERFP members practicing the movement of a casualty; note the PAPR system.

National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams (WMD-CSTs)

There are currently 57 WMD-CSTs throughout the United States, with a presence in every state and US territory. These teams are always on standby so that they can respond rapidly to a CBRN threat on American soil.

WMD-CST survey mission underway

Each member of a 22-man WMD-CST team must have 650 hours of HAZMAT training to prepare them for every eventuality they could encounter in the field and for any type of CBRN event. These CSTs typically work with first responders at the local and state levels to assist in identifying hazardous agents so that proper protocols can be established where needed

A WMD-CST scanning a man for nerve agents during a drill

Each CST includes a medic and physician’s assistant to treat victims of what is likely to be a mass casualty event. Notably, the Utah National Guard’s 85th WMD-CST was activated in 2020 to help clean up a chemical spill caused by an earthquake.

Talon IV robot being deployed during a drill.

Czech Republic Army CBRN

CBRN capabilities. During the Gulf War, Czech Army CBRN units were used extensively to monitor the air in Iraq to ensure that Saddam Hussein wasn’t releasing chemical weapons onto the battlefield.

The Czechs are so world-renowned for their CBRN detection capabilities that the Czech Republic heads NATO’s CBRN Defense Battalion. Perhaps that’s a good place to start.

NATO CBRN Defense Battalion

One hundred and sixty NBC specialists from the Czech Republic’s 31st CBRN Defense Regiment form the main body of this battalion. It patrols NATO territory and monitors the air for nuclear, biological, and chemical threats.

NATO soldiers analyze a potential chemical mortar location during a drill.

The Czechs aren’t exactly alone in NATO’s CBRN Defense Battalion – the US, Belgium, Canada, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom make up a sizable portion of it as well. But given that the Czechs form the bulk of it, it is essentially their Army CBRN unit.

Not only is Czech equipment, training, and manpower brought to the scene, but Western European-specific gear also comes along. For example, the European Union uses autonomous drones in its CBRNe operational (AUDROS) units throughout its territory. These are quadcopters equipped with CBRNe detection abilities and satcom technology.

Speaking of CBRN technology, the Czech armed forces proudly utilize our CM-7M Military Gas Masks for optimal protection and combat effectiveness in toxic environments.

31st CBRN Defense Regiment

These are some of the premier CBRN forces in the world. They’re highly trained and equipped with the best gear in the world. Based out of Liberec within the Czech Republic, these men travel extensively throughout NATO territory to keep tabs on potential threats in the atmosphere.

They’re outfitted with approximately 80 IVECO 4x4 armored LMVs, each equipped with a single remote-controlled 7.62-mm machine gun, and each vehicle is capable of threat analysis and collection in all terrains. They also recently acquired a number of S-LOV-CBRN and LOV-CBRN II vehicles.

These are armored CBRN reconnaissance vehicles that each support a two-man team and protect the crew from all CBRN threats without the need to wear a gas mask. The S-LOV-CBRN even comes equipped with a CBRN robot that can be deployed out of the back to test for a wide array of CBRN threats, monitor atmospheric oxygen levels, find enemies via thermal imaging, and use acoustic monitoring to detect human threats in its vicinity.

From outward appearances, these CBRN-protected vehicles seem to be the workhorses of the 31st CBRN Defense Regiment and by extension, NATO. Immediately after NATO’s CBRN Defense Battalion became operational (2003), members of the Czech 31st CBRN Defense Regiment were sent to work monitoring the air in Greece during the 2004 summer Olympics. However, they used an older CBRN vehicle, the Land Rover RCH.

Regiment were sent to work monitoring the air in Greece during the 2004 summer Olympics. However, they used an older CBRN vehicle, the Land Rover RCH.

Russia

Like it or not, Russia has some of the top army CBRN units in the world. For a number of reasons, however, it can be very difficult to classify and list these units. For starters, Russia’s government is virtually all military/police. Even departments of state could technically fall under the military’s umbrella.

The Ministry of Chemical Industry, Biopreparat, and the Ministry of Defense are but two state branches involved in chemical weapon production that Soviet defector and scientist Ken Alibek discussed in his memoir Biohazard. If we limit ourselves to only the soldiers that are overt NBC troops, the following are some of what we find.

(Image source: Image courtesy of Ken Alibek)

RCB Protection Troops of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation/CBRN Protection Troops

There are far too many brigades in this group of military CBRN units to list here, but just know that this is a huge part of the Russian military. These men are often referred to as the CBRN Protection Troops.

They’re equipped with the TOS-2 Tosochka multiple rocket launcher (MRL); UTM-80M decontamination vehicles; ARS-14KM mobile refueling stations; MKA, PBA, and KDA disinfection systems; and a host of other specialized CBRN equipment. Most likely, they also use TMS-65M decontamination vehicles and MKA pathogenic analysis systems and can transport troops via Il-76 aircraft so that they can reach ground zero as rapidly as possible.

(It's worth considering whether Russia has “alternative” munitions ready to load into those TOS-2 Tosochka MRLs.)

There are at least 10,000 men and 3,500 vehicles in the RCB Protection Troops. From time to time, they make headlines as they are mobilized worldwide. For example, in 2014, Russia put a CBRN defense unit in Sevastopol, Crimea, with 200 units of weaponry and specialized CBRN reconnaissance vehicles known as BTR-80 APCs.

(Image source: Image courtesy of BTR-80 APC)

In October 2022, Russian CBRN units once more made a splash in world news when rumors began to circulate that according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, Russia’s CBRN units had been activated in preparation for a “dirty bomb.”

Members of the RCB Protection Troops are likely to be among those activated should Russia face a CBRNE attack or event.

No matter where you live, there’s a CBRN unit near you.

There are too many CBRN units around the world to list here, so this isn’t an exhaustive list of the best of the best, but it’s pretty close. If you’re looking for the top CBRN responders in the world, the best soldiers, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to deal with the aftermath of a CBRN strike, these are who you would turn to.

But, what are your thoughts on these military units? Are there others you believe should have been included? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are CBRN threats still a threat in the modern day? After all, the Cold War is over.
Didn’t the Chemical Warfare Convention make chemical weapons illegal?
Why do nations need CBRN units in the military?
What’s the best way to protect my family against CBRN threats?