FORT POLK, La. -- Commanders, command sergeants major and first sergeants from five chemical battalions and 27 companies across the 48th Chemical Brigade gathered at Fort Polk Feb. 17-19 for the first brigade off-site training event of the brigade's history. Fort Polk's 83rd Chemical Battalion, one of the brigade's subordinate commands, hosted the event, which included a brigade run, motor maintenance training, a live-fire exercise at Peason Ridge, hazardous materials response training, networking sessions for the battalion and company leaders and the Chemical Corps' evolving mission and technology.

"In my first six months in command, I sat down with my command sergeant major and did an assessment of the things we needed to work on with the company commanders and first sergeants," said Col. Eric Brigham, commander, 48th Chemical Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas. "One was maintenance. Across the brigade our knowledge level was not where I thought it should be, so we spent the first part of the event focusing on the maintenance program and process at the 83rd motor pool. We want to show these leaders how a maintenance program is supposed to run. The second thing we identified was a big disparity of tactical capabilities between the companies."

The second day of the off-site training was spent at Peason Ridge, where the 7th Chemical Company, 83rd Chem Bn demonstrated the execution of a complex live-fire range at the digital multi-purpose battlefield assessment center.

Following range training, leaders observed a capability exercise highlighting the use of hazardous materials response equipment currently being fielded to each battalion.

"We have this new equipment, but the Army hasn't told us how to use it," Brigham said. "We have one platoon at Fort Drum, N.Y., that is familiar with it and is a hazmat response platoon attached to a technical escort battalion. The tech escort battalion does a lot of this stuff, and they have developed tactics, techniques and procedures for hazmat response and are going to give a capabilities exercise. We want to teach our young leaders what the emerging capabilities are in our branch."

"The units in this brigade are spread across nine different installations, from Fort Drum, N.Y. to Fort Lewis, Wash.," said Lt. Col. Blaine Hedges, commander, 83rd Chem Bn. "To get all the units in one location is a great opportunity for first sergeants, company commanders and battalion commanders to share best practices."

Hedges said hosting the event was exciting. "The capabilities we have on this installation are unmatched. Hosting this event is an honor and privilege for the 83rd."

"Fort Polk has capabilities that are unavailable on other installations," Brigham said. "The DMPBAC is a fantastic facility, the 83rd is good at those skills we need to improve on and it's the warmest place I could find."

Hedges said the main focus of the week was networking between leaders in the brigade. "The key takeaway is to get cross-pollination and cross talk," he said. "We demonstrated the live-fire exercise, so when another company commander is going to plan one, they know we have that capability and they can give us a call. The other battalions in the brigade can see the resources we have here, too, so when they are planning an operation at Fort Polk, they know a chemical battalion can host them."

Capt. Roger Pineda, commander, 7th Chem Co, said he looks forward to the improved communication with his peers. "I only knew about 5 percent of the other company commanders before this event," he said. "I've already exchanged some information with them, like notes for my change of command and inventories, so the communication already exists -- this is just going to make it better."

"After each event, we had a discussion where the company commanders and first sergeants could share ideas and collectively improve," said Brigham. "I asked the company commanders if they got anything out of the brigade off-site and they all had positive feedback. If they get smarter and build camaraderie, that's what this event is all about."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16