CBRN Marines put through paces during hazmat response training
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan -- Military policemen inspect a suspicious car and notice its trunk is open, so they investigate further. One MP passes out due to fumes leaking from the trunk, and his partner tries to drag him away from the scene. He notices he is becoming lightheaded as well, so he calls his dispatch, who alerts a team of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist Marines.
Luckily, this was all part of a drill. A report of a suspicious vehicle, a casualty and unknown contamination was part of training CBRN defense specialists with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, received Aug. 27 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The drill was part of assessment and consequence management response training that tested the Marines’ ability to judge situations and react appropriately to hazardous material.
“What we would do is extract (casualties) as well as do an overall assessment of the scene to find out what the contaminant or hazardous material is,” said Staff Sgt. Talal A. Hafez, incident commander of the scenario and CBRN training chief with 1st MAW, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “We do an assessment of the scene because if you see one casualty it does not mean there is not going to be more. It is important we respond quickly because it is life (threatening).”
The CBRN defense specialists used joint chemical agent detectors and multi-threat detection tools during the training event to monitor for radiation and chemical detection. During an additional part of the training evolution, while the Marines were investigating another scene, they cleared a room and found a simulated casualty.
“In this exercise, we did a little bit of extract and a little bit of reconnaissance,” said Lance Cpl. Rocky Smith II, a CBRN defense specialist with MWHS-1. “We go out, check the surrounding area, key landmarks and make sure there is no contamination outside the building. From (the building), we can monitor (the contamination) with the equipment we have.”
Marines moved the simulated casualty to a decontamination line where a designated team of CBRN defense specialists stood ready to treat the casualty.
Once in a controlled environment, the teams will cut the casualty out of their clothes and begin a systematic cleaning process, according to Smith. Next, they are sent to get medical treatment while the CBRN defense specialists go through their own decontamination control line. In that line they are washed by a decontamination solution, helped out of their suits, cleaned again, and then monitored before being cleared to leave the area.
CBRN defense specialists from other teams within III MEF were able to attend the training and observe how the 1st MAW teams work, according to Hafez, from West Bend, Wisconsin. They were able to use the training to learn from each other.
“It provides training to (major subordinate commands) and also allows us to bring back key points about how we do our tactics,” said Hafez. “We are using these exercises to gather information (to improve our procedures).”
With the day’s training complete and all equipment put away, the CBRN defense specialists walked away with added job training in assessment and consequence management response.
“This is our first line of defense from spreading contamination to anybody else,” said Smith, from Houston, Texas. “It is important to stop the contamination here before it (spreads) because other people can get infected."