BAGHDAD - The Iraqi Army's Chemical Defense Regiment conducted capability exercises at Camp Taji late November through early December 2010.

The scenarios included a chemical weapons cache, where a suspicious liquid was reported and the regiment was requested to do a characterization of the site and facilities.

"The CAPEX is to show the Iraqi Army that the Chemical Defense Regiment is capable of responding to any type of incident involving chemical rounds or conventional rounds," said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Francisco Robinson-Brown, senior enlisted advisor to the Iraq Chemical Defense Regiment.

After this exercise, leaders will see, and be sure, that the Chemical Defense Regiment is ready to handle all rounds and improvised explosive devices in the future, said Iraqi Army 1st Sgt. Samir Jabar, stations leader and the regiment's sergeant major.

The regiment began training as a company in October 2009. Within a month, the Ministry of Defense designated it as a full 300-member regiment, complete with two companies and a headquarters. Although, the regiment now only has 110 trained chemical defense Soldiers, 150 new recruits - fresh out of Basic Combat Training - are being trained as chemical defense specialists to join the ranks.

This regiment is the only of its kind in Iraq, and has responded to many real-world situations, most of which were precautionary. Three months ago at Camp Speicher in Tikrit, for example, the regiment - then a company - recovered and disposed of 391 rounds that had been uncovered in a field within a three-day period, Samir said.

The ministries of Interior and Energy have previously requested the regiment's assistance with conducting site surveys, said Robinson-Brown, and a native of Pemberton, N.J.

During a response the regiment breaks down and works in teams. An Explosive Ordnance Disposal team diffuses and renders a weapon safe, another takes evidence or samples the site, another cleans up and recovers munitions, and yet another decontaminates other team members and equipment.

Soldiers are not just capable of handling rounds or IEDs, but also things like envelopes, cell phones, pictures, disks, powder, liquids, maps, etc.

"Overall, they have become a self sufficient entity that's capable of responding anywhere within Iraq when it pertains to securing or recovering any type of chemical or munitions rounds," Robinson-Brown said.

The regiment has conducted six capability exercises so far and will do more in the future.

Editor's note: Menegay is a member of the Ohio Army National Guard's 196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment attached to the U.S. Forces-Iraq Deputy Commanding General for Advising and Training Public Affairs Office.

Page last updated Wed January 26th, 2011 at 01:01