Orange Cloud 2024: International CBRN Training in the Netherlands


By Ruud ter Linden

Sergeant First Class at the Dutch Defence CBRN Centre, Ruud ter Linden, presents a landmark international CBRN exercise that took place in the Netherlands in March 2024.

The Netherlands’ Defence CBRN Centre (DCBRNC) in Vught serves as a central hub for all matters related to CBRN defense within the Dutch Armed Forces. Housing a team of approximately 110 military and civilian specialists, the DCBRNC encompasses several key functions:

  • Expertise: The DCBRNC boasts a dedicated team of experts who continuously analyze the evolving nature of CBRN threats. Through collaboration with esteemed institutions like the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), the DCBRNC stays abreast of the latest developments and disseminates this knowledge throughout the defense community.
  • Training & Education: Equipping personnel with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively combat CBRN threats is paramount. The DCBRNC fulfills this critical role by providing a comprehensive training curriculum for military personnel and first responders. This curriculum encompasses theoretical knowledge, practical training exercises, and exposure to cutting-edge CBRN detection and decontamination technologies.
  • Deployment: The DCBRNC maintains a dedicated CBRN Response Unit, a highly trained and specialized team prepared for immediate deployment in the event of a CBRN incident. This unit possesses the expertise and equipment necessary to effectively assess, contain, and mitigate CBRN threats, safeguarding both military personnel and civilians.

Sharpening the Sword: The National Training Centre CBRN

Integral to the DCBRN Centre’s training mission is the National Training Centre CBRN (NTC CBRN), also located in Vught. This unique facility provides a realistic training environment specifically designed to simulate CBRN scenarios. Encompassing roughly six hectares of meticulously designed terrain, the NTC CBRN offers a diverse range of training grounds, including:

  • A replica above-ground metro station
  • Collapsed buildings and damaged infrastructure
  • A train yard with (tank) carriages
  • A container terminal
  • A decontamination street
  • A multi-room house for confined space training

These training grounds, coupled with the expertise of NTC CBRN instructors and the use of advanced simulation technologies like the Simulation Training System (STS) CBRN, create an immersive training experience that pushes participants to their limits and prepares them for the complexities of real-world CBRN threats. It is within this collaborative framework of expertise, training, and cutting-edge facilities that Orange Cloud 2024, a significant international CBRN exercise, unfolded.

Orange Cloud 2024: A Deep Dive into International CBRN Training

The global landscape in 2024 is constantly evolving. As the Defence CBRN Centre, staying ahead of the curve in CBRN threats is paramount. This is precisely why Orange Cloud 2024 was conceived. An international CBRN exercise designed to push the boundaries of training and foster collaboration amongst leading defence units, Orange Cloud 2024 brought together a formidable team of CBRN specialists from across Europe at the renowned National Training Centre (NTC) in Vught.

Orange Cloud 2024 took place at the National Training Centre in Vught, the Netherlands, © Defensie CBRN Centrum

Participants: A Global Synergy

Seven elite CBRN reconnaissance teams converged at the NTC, representing a diverse range of expertise. From Germany’s meticulous detection, identification, and monitoring teams to the seasoned sampling specialists of Belgium, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, the exercise had a truly international flavor. Notably, Dutch CBRN defense was well-represented by the 101st and 414th CBRN Defence Companies, showcasing their prowess on home turf. Additionally, both Dutch and German forces deployed decontamination lines, demonstrating their capabilities in both chemical and biological threat mitigation.

The First of its Kind and a Multifaceted Approach

Orange Cloud 2024 marked a significant milestone for the Defence CBRN Centre. It was the first time that the Centre had organized an exercise of this scale, bringing together a remarkable six different nationalities. This international collaboration fostered a unique environment for knowledge sharing and cross-pollination of best practices.

Orange Cloud 2024 wasn’t a one-dimensional training exercise. Instead, it encompassed three distinct themes, each designed to hone specific skillsets:

  • Warfighting: The ever-present specter of warfighting was a core theme. Recent geopolitical developments further east have highlighted the evolving nature of CBRN threats. Orange Cloud 2024 scenarios, meticulously crafted by specialists, aimed to expose participants to these evolving realities and equip them with the know-how to navigate such volatile situations.
  • International Cooperation: In the face of a CBRN incident, international cooperation is crucial. Orange Cloud 2024 served as a platform to practice seamless collaboration among participating units. By working together under simulated pressure, teams fostered stronger working relationships and honed their ability to effectively communicate and coordinate efforts in a multinational environment.
  • Lessons Learned: Every experience offers valuable takeaways. Orange Cloud 2024 was designed not just to test and refine existing skills, but also to cultivate a culture of continuous learning. By actively debriefing and analyzing successes and shortcomings throughout the exercise, participants gained invaluable insights that could be applied to future operations.

Training: Pushing the Boundaries

Teams from six different countries took part in Orange Cloud 2024, © Defensie CBRN Centrum

To truly test the mettle of the participating teams, the CBRN school instructors devised a series of intricate and realistic scenarios. These scenarios pushed the teams to their limits, forcing them to adapt and improvise in dynamic, high-pressure situations. But Orange Cloud 2024 wasn’t solely reliant on traditional training methods. It also leveraged the cutting-edge Simulation Training System (STS) CBRN, a unique tool offered by the NTC. 

This state-of-the-art system provided participants with an unparalleled training experience, allowing them to not only familiarize themselves with the system itself but also utilize its features to run through complex scenarios and benefit from its advanced evaluation capabilities.

Ministerial Visit: A High-Level Show of Support

The importance of Orange Cloud 2024 was further underscored by a visit from the Dutch Minister of Defense, Kajsa Ollongren. Minister Ollongren took a first-hand look at the STS CBRN in action and immersed herself in the simulated hospital scenario, where British colleagues were meticulously collecting and analyzing a liquid sample for identification. Following a close-up observation of the German decontamination line, she interacted with the personnel of the Defence CBRN Centre.

The visit culminated in the presentation of a special “minister coin” to Corporal Marc of the Response Unit, a symbolic gesture acknowledging his dedication and service. To cap off the visit, the Minister, alongside her spouse, had the honor of promoting the DCBRNC commander to the rank of colonel.

The Dutch Minister of Defense, Kajsa Ollongren, visited Orange Cloud 2024, © Defensie CBRN Centrum

Visitors’ Day: Expanding the Circle

The spirit of learning and collaboration extended beyond the core participants. Orange Cloud 2024 also welcomed esteemed guests on a dedicated Visitors’ Day. This day saw representatives from the Commander OTCo (Operational Training Command), Attachés from Japan, Germany, and Belgium, and even delegations from the 11th and 41st Armoured Engineer Battalions gracing the event. This provided a valuable opportunity to showcase the significance of CBRN defense training to a wider audience and foster a sense of shared responsibility in maintaining global security.

Conclusion: A United Front Against CBRN Threats

Orange Cloud 2024 was a resounding success, exceeding expectations on all fronts. The exercise served as a crucible for honing the skills of participating CBRN specialists, exposing them to the latest threats and refining their ability to collaborate seamlessly across borders. The international participation fostered a spirit of camaraderie and mutual respect, demonstrating that in the face of CBRN threats, a unified global response is paramount.

The lessons learned throughout the exercise were invaluable. By fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement, Orange Cloud 2024 ensured that participating units are better equipped to tackle real-world CBRN threats. The success of this exercise serves as a testament to the unwavering commitment of the Defence CBRN Centre and its international partners to safeguard global security in an ever-evolving world. The shared experiences and knowledge gained at Orange Cloud 2024 will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in ensuring preparedness and a unified response when faced with CBRN emergencies in the future.

The exercise also served as a powerful symbol of international cooperation. By showcasing the capabilities of a diverse group of CBRN specialists working together, Orange Cloud 2024 sent a clear message – effective CBRN defense requires a collaborative global effort. As we move forward, fostering even stronger international partnerships and continuously refining training methodologies will be crucial in maintaining a world safe from CBRN threats.

Orange Cloud Team Photo, © Defensie CBRN Centrum

Ruud ter Linden is a Sergeant First Class at the Dutch Defence CBRN Centre.

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