Training enhances Marine Corps chemical defense
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan -- Marines with various units assigned to III Marine Expeditionary Force attended Reconnaissance Survey Detection Decontamination training July 14-18 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The main function of the training is chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear hazard prediction and defense. After completing the training, Marines are certified to gather information from a contaminated site and pass their findings on to a subject matter expert.
For every unit in the III MEF, 25 percent of their on-hand sergeants and below are required to complete the training, according to Sgt. Tristan Medina, an instructor and CBRN defense specialist with Personnel Support Detachment 18, Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF. CBRN defense specialists like Medina rely on RSDD trained Marines to go to contaminated sites, since a subject matter expert may not always be present to confirm a possible danger.
The first step of the training is teaching the Marines how to effectively communicate a situation over a radio.
If Marines see a possible contaminate threat, they need to describe the details properly, to include the size and volume of liquid, according to Medina, a Fort Worth, Texas, native. An accurate description can help a CBRN defense specialist and commander make an informed decision on what procedures need to take place next.
Along with effective communication, Marines learned the history of CBRN defense and practical application of their newly acquired knowledge. On the final day of training, they used these skills in a real-world simulation.
“A friendly position was getting attacked by artillery shells throughout the day,” said Medina. “The observers watching this attack noticed some of the artillery shells weren’t impacting as normal. That happens when some of the explosives in the shell are replaced with a chemical agent.”
A three-man reconnaissance team surveyed the area and practiced identifying the problem under the supervision of their instructor. Another team waited for their return to help decontaminate and remove the mission-oriented protective posture equipment safely.
“We didn’t have much more information than what they gave us,” said Lance Cpl. Jesus Ceja, a trainee and supply administration and operation specialist with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 18, MACG-18, 1st MAW, III MEF. “This was the real world-based evaluation. The scenario was more of an individual effort and less instructor support.”
During an actual event, Marines may not have a chance to meet the team they are working with, according to Medina. They have to not only be prepared to work with anyone, but also have confidence in their own skills.
“If I’m out in the field and I get a call that people are getting sick from something out there, I can help identify and confirm if it is a chemical gas,” said Pfc. Kee Thao, a trainee and tactical switching operator with MWCS-18, MACG-18, 1st MAW, III MEF.
To assess the situation, Marines used a joint chemical agent detector to mark the contaminated area and an M256 chemical detection kit to identify the type of contamination.
“The scenario went well because everyone learned something,” said Thao, a Sacramento, California, native.
Subject matter experts continue to train as many Marines as possible on the history of CBRN defense, effective communication and proficiency in using detection equipment.
“A lot of Marines should come out here and do this because it is very necessary for people to know this training, (so that) in case something did happen, they would know what to do,” said Ceja, a Maywood, California, native.