HALLE, Belgium –
For the past two years, the U.S. Army Reserve's 773rd Civil Support Team, a 7th Mission Support Command unit, has been at the forefront of U.S. Army Europe's "Strong Europe" posture, conducting dozens of exercises and partnership activities with allied nations in Europe. Their expertise in surveying and detecting chemical, biological and radiological hazards has so impressed NATO that the international alliance has requested that the 7th Mission Support Command lead the NATO CBRN Center of Excellence. Much of this progress occurred while under the command of Lt. Col. Sandy Sadler, 46, a 24-year Army veteran from Natchez, Mississippi, who recently sat down with Army Staff Sgt. Rick Scavetta of the 7th MSC public affairs office to discuss CBRN Week 2015 in Belgium, how his team supports USAREUR and the accomplishments of his Soldiers.
7MSC-PAO: You're about to relinquish command the 773rd CST, how did this command compare with other assignments you've had?
LTC S Sadler: I've held numerous of highlighted positions, but this job here at the 773rd has been the highlight and the pinnacle of my career. What plateaued me when I took command was having this relationship with the Belgian firefighters, which is why we're here doing our traditional, annual CBRN Week.
7MSC-PAO: How did that develop? How did you meet the Belgian firefighters?
LTC Sadler: CBRN Week goes back to 2009. It was developed by a lot of local first responders around the German community. The first commander of the 773rd, actually, initiated this effort and we've continued to build upon it every year.
7MSC-PAO: This year the event changed a little because of the reconfiguration of the Belgian firefighters' organization. How did that change things and was there anything else unique as compared to years past?
LTC Sadler: This year there have been a lot more firefighters involved because of the reorganization that they did. Also, there were new Soldiers that have joined the 773rd. So, there is a plethora of new people. So, based upon that, the focus of this years' CBRN week is "Back to the Basics," where we do a lot of radiation and hazmat training and decontamination.
7MSC-PAO: For people who may be familiar with the 20th CBRN and stateside CBRN units who do similar missions, how does this unit's CBRN week compare?
LTC Sadler: This is unique because we are part of the first responder community, the 773rd - this is actually live training for them. Traditional CBRN, we live and eat and sleep in the firehouse, when the call comes, we respond with them. Next year, you'll see that put back in the process. This year, we're getting familiar with each other because there so many new people. We also went through equipment modernization at the 773rd. So, we took them through a lot of our new equipment. They took us through their new equipment.
7MSC-PAO: Soldiers assigned to the 773rd are both active and drilling Reserves. They have a great opportunity to train with partner nations and allies while in Europe. What else to they experience while with the unit?
LTC Sadler: You can go around and do exercises in the States, but nothing compares to doing it here in Europe. You go into different countries and we're training with our coalition and allied partners on a routine basis, building those relationships and networking opportunities that keeps our national at its highest peak of acceptance in the international community.
7MSC-PAO: When Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army Europe, talks about the concept of "Strong Europe," it seems the 773rd CST had already hit the ground running on that, with training in places like Ukraine, Kosovo, Georgia and Poland. How does the unit support USAREUR's efforts?
LTC Sadler: We live Strong Europe. We are Strong Europe. My key takeaway and what I say to the Soldiers of the organization is that it's not always just about shoot, move and communicate. For us it's about partnership, how well we respect and treat our coalition allies and partners. Hands down, this is an experience which these Soldiers will never forget.
7MSC-PAO: This unit is unique for the U.S. Army, and it's made up of U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers. What does that say about how the Reserve and active duty forces work together?
LTC Sadler: What we do here in Europe is of the utmost importance. To me, as a commander, I must project the information back to the States. Not only are we engaging in our mission, but we are also engaging the heart and minds of our international partners. The Soldiers come here, they are our top professionals, they are serious about the job and they love what they do.
7MSC-PAO: You are turning over command to Lt. Col. U.L. Armstrong now, what's next for you?
LTC Sadler: I'm headed over to Central Command, I'll be engaging in Middle East activities and also will be taking up the Army Reserve engagement cell, which is a unique challenge and opportunity for me. I'm looking forward to it. But, I'll remain connected to the 773rd.