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NEWS | Sept. 28, 2022

773rd Suits Up at Toxic Valley 22

By Staff Sgt. Jessica Forester 7th Mission Support Command

 Soldiers from the 773rd Civil Support Team (CST), 7th Mission Support Command (MSC) participated in Toxic Valley, September 12 through September 16 in Slovakia.

Toxic Valley is an annual, live-agent training exercise, hosted by the Slovakia Armed Forces, designed to test international Sampling and Identification of Biological and Chemical Agents, (SIBCA,) teams.

“Toxic Valley empowers the 773rd and our NATO partners to stretch the limits of our technical expertise,” said Lt. Col. Mary Durham, commander of the 773rd CST.

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers joined chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) personnel from 12 NATO nations. Participants divided into two teams; survey teams who suit up and enter the hazardous zone to collect samples of unidentified substances, and lab teams, who receive, analyze, and identify the samples.

“Our objectives were to deploy and exercise our Analytical Laboratory Suite, certify our chemical detection and sampling capabilities, and execute both missions without injury or safety incidents.”

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Harbaugh, a reconnaissance NCO with the 773rd, responsible for assisting with the management of the team throughout operations, spoke highly of the team’s performance.

“We successfully deployed our team and equipment,” said Harbaugh. “We performed our site characterizations, collected samples and correctly identified those samples and completed decontamination procedures to standard.”

Not only were the technical skills of the 773rd evaluated, but their leadership and training abilities were tested as well. Sgt. Ebony Noble, a CBRN Soldier and survey team chief, provided training to non-CBRN personnel on sample collection during a live-agent training lane.

“She’s been in the role for two weeks at this point and provided excellent instruction, resulting in the successful evaluation of the team,” said Harbaugh.

Overall, the team’s participation allowed them the opportunity to practice their skills, observe new methods, and add new tools and skills to their kits, making them more proficient moving forward.

“We have more to do to build and maintain our proficiency. There will always be more,” said Lt. Col. Durham. “But our soldiers are working tirelessly to be successful. We trained with our NATO partners and we are better for it. We are stronger together.”

This is the 10th year the Slovakian Armed Forces have hosted the training event.