Defense Nuclear Weapons School (DNWS) Celebrates 70th Anniversary

FORT BELVOIR, VA–(Marketwired – April 12, 2017) – The Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) home of nuclear triad and counter-weapons of mass destruction mission learning, the Defense Nuclear Weapons School (DNWS), is celebrating its 70th anniversary this month. The school, located on Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque, N.M., can trace its roots back to the World War II Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bombs. Currently, DNWS has more than 30 courses in-residence, online or delivered by mobile training teams that cover the spectrum of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRNE) instruction. Its classified weapons museum remains the nation’s only complete collection with display examples of every nuclear weapon inventoried, and many of the courses offered utilize this unique resource.

Founded by atomic weapons pioneers Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves and Rear Adm. William Parsons, their post-WWII vision was for a joint military-civilian program to manage these new weapons and provide the intensive training for them. Due to the complexity of the early weapons, DNWS courses were several weeks long and broken into sections covering electrical, mechanical and nuclear assemblies. The school was born in 1947 as the Technical Training Group under the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project.

The 1950’s brought increased Cold War tensions and an ever growing nuclear stockpile leading to a greater defense demand for highly trained nuclear technicians. Additionally, the school trained radiological defense personnel and bomb technicians on how to recover explosives and hazardous components. The need for these courses was reinforced as the United States experienced its first five accidents involving nuclear weapons in 1950. During this timeframe the school was part of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project and then the Defense Atomic Support Agency (DASA).

Renamed the Defense Nuclear Weapons School after the end of the Cold War, concern over domestic radiological and nuclear terrorism have led to courses being established in support of domestic responders. “Providing quality technical and useful education, DNWS is a key, relevant source of knowledge for the warfighter. This institution continues to educate and prepare students to be knowledgeable for the worldwide weapons of mass destruction threat,” said Brig. Gen. Gerald Goodfellow, Director of Nuclear Enterprise Support at DTRA.

Acting DTRA Director, Ms. Shari Durand, lauded the school’s continued success by saying, “For 70 years DNWS has provided our warfighters, civil support teams, and our allies instruction and expertise that is second to none. I am extremely proud of DNWS’ rich and varied past. I am confident their future endeavors will continue to prepare our warfighters to address future WMD threats around the world.”

DTRA is the U.S. Department of Defense’s Combat Support Agency for countering weapons of mass destruction, addressing the entire spectrum of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosive threats and countering improvised threats. DTRA’s programs include scientific research and development, operational support to U.S. warfighters on the front line, and an expertise that spans the full WMD threat spectrum. We work with the military services, other elements of the United States government, and partner countries to prevent acquisition, contain and reduce threats and respond to crises with a singular goal in mind: Making the World Safer.

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