Media heroes: First responders train up on Fort Leonard Wood
May 2, 2013
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- In recent weeks, first responders racing to neutralize hazardous chemical incidents, like the Boston bombing or the ricin-laced letter incident, have dominated the news -- and many of the military responders involved trained at Fort Leonard Wood.
"Without question, the military components responding to hazardous material disasters came through Fort Leonard Wood at some point in their training," said Daniel Arden, Incident Response Training Department technical director.
According to Maj. Javid Heravi, National Guard deputy assistant commandant, the 1st Civil Support Team (Massachusetts National Guard) assisted local authorities with response to the bombing at the Boston Marathon and was augmented by CST members from 2nd CST (New York National Guard) and 13th CST (Rhode Island National Guard). In Mississippi, the National Guard's 47th CST aided state, local and federal officials in identifying potentially poisonous substances mailed to the White House and Senate. In Texas, forces assigned to the National Guard continue to support civilian authorities responding to the fertilizer plant explosion. Elements of Texas' Homeland Response Force, including the Search and Extraction Element and the Command Element were also alerted for possible mobilization.
The first responders train on post because Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School, the 3rd Chemical Brigade and the Lt. Joseph Terry CBRN Facility.
"At the Terry Facility we train the CBRN response teams -- active Army, Reserve and National Guard," Arden said. "We provide hazardous material response and incident response training."
Arden described CBRN Regiment as the fire extinguisher of the Army.
"It's nice to have it, but you don't ever really think about it until you need it," Arden said. "You never want to see it being used, but the thousands of students we have trained are out there are doing this work and it makes me feel proud."
Arden is not alone. With recent events thrusting hazardous material specialists into the limelight many CBRN Soldiers are taking note.
"In my opinion, the CBRN Regiment has become more relevant than we have ever been. We are an organization in the U.S. Army that is ready to handle any situation. It makes me feel good and confident in our skills as a regiment. This regiment is heading toward being more technical. People used to look us like vehicle washers or decontamination people. Now, we are first responders that work with several government level organizations," said 1st Sgt. Jonathan Conrad, CBRN Senior Leader Course chief.
In his classroom, Conrad uses hazmat situations, such as the Texas fertilizer plant explosion, to teach his students. The CBRN Senior Leader Course has a consequence management block made up of past case studies. Soldiers develop a course of action and brief the rest of the class on the plan.
Conrad believes the One Army School System is the key to being able to respond to a CBRN situation. OASS is designed to improve Army readiness by providing relevant and realistic training to active and Reserve Component schools.
"It strengthens our knowledge. The reserve components have Civil Support Teams that are very well versed in responding to hazmat operations. The active side of the house learns from that. We are well-versed in the Chemical Reconnaissance Detachments that we operate in theater and we bring that expertise to the table," Conrad said.
As a Reserve Soldier, Sgt. Kevin Cates, 3175th Chemical Company, St. Louis, Mo., couldn't agree more. He is on post taking the CBRN U.S. Army Reserve Advanced Leader Course, a class he is thankful to be attending.
"I believe that Fort Leonard Wood has done everything possible to train me. The instructors, civilian and military, are doing a great job. Blending both sides together makes me feel ready no matter what I'm responding to," Cates said. "This is a tough course. You have to know your job, and be physically and mentally prepared to deal with it. What we are learning here is definitely relevant. It should give the public a sense of security."