Soldiers learn Japanese decon despite language barriers
AIBANO TRAINING AREA, Japan -- U.S. Soldiers participating in Orient Shield 2016 went through the Japanese chemical decontamination process Sept. 14-15 by following the direction of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members.
About 1,600 U.S. and Japanese service members are taking part this year in Orient Shield, which officially began Sept. 11 and continues this week at Aibano Training Area, located northeast of Osaka on the main island of Honshu, Japan.
The Soldiers navigated through and completed several decon stations following the directions of the SDF members without the aid of translators.
"The hand and arm signals I got a hang of," said Pfc. Kemper Baker of the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. "They were really good at dumbing it down for you, pointing at what they want you to do and where they want you to do it."
Decontamination is used in case of a chemical attack to wash away blister and nerve agents, said Sgt. Billy Hammond, a member of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear unit in the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th ID.
The process has personnel go through several different washes and detergents.
Baker and Cpl. Cameron Allen -- another infantryman with 4-23 -- went through the full decontamination process, which included getting scanned with a chemical agent monitor, washing their equipment and gear, stripping out of the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology -- or hazmat suit -- and getting a full shower.
The Japanese 3rd Nuclear Biological Chemical unit, 3rd Div., 36th Inf. Regiment, sponsored the training.
"It was cool," said Baker. "I've never done anything like that before, and especially doing it with another unit and even another country… It was a really good experience."
The Japanese process is very similar to the thorough decontamination process Americans use, said 1st Lt. Amanda Robinson, the 2-27 CBRN officer in charge.
"With the personnel decon, it is almost exact -- there's just a few things here and there that we do a little bit different," Robinson said. "But it's nothing that would even change our procedures or change theirs."
The U.S. Soldiers and the SDF members were able to discuss those differences between their methods, like how to move contaminated water sources away from the decontamination site, Robinson said.
"Being able to train with our Japanese counterparts has been very beneficial," Robinson said.
Aside from the professional benefits, the training bore other fruit as well.
"I would like to do this again one day," said Hammond. "It was actually really fun."
(Editor's note: the 29th MPAD is a Maryland National Guard unit.)