Fort Bragg decontamination company prepares for domestic disasters
July 29, 2011
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., Aug. 1, 2011 -- The 101st Chemical Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Company must not only be ready for events that may occur in foreign lands, but they must be equally ready to handle domestic disasters.
The simulated mobile mass casualty decontamination validation course held July 20, and was designed to test Soldiers’ readiness to deal with such disasters on American soil.
“It’s a real red, white and blue mission because you are training Soldiers to take care of our own,” said John Branum, Army division chief for Army North. “This could be aunts, uncles or pastors they’re helping. So it makes it very personal. When Soldiers are entering a battlefield, they have the mentality of ‘how do I stay alive?’ How do I keep from being killed by an improvised explosive device or a sniper? This training is a very different shift in thinking for Soldiers,” he said.
This training course gives Soldiers hands-on experience when dealing with disaster situation, Branum explained. The training provides an opportunity to simulate conditions of a potential chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear threat, or CBRN. It calls for trained responders to apply practices they have been taught as defense CBRN response force members.
“I love it because it makes you feel elite. We are fourteen out of one hundred thirty eight of us that are qualified to do this and that makes you just work that much harder to be the one in the suit,” said Staff Sgt. Samantha Gibson of the 101st Chemical Co.
According to Spc. Aaron Averre of the 101st Chemical Co., the full gear -- boots, air tanks and level A encapsulated suit, all weighs 40 pounds and it’s always 30 degrees hotter than the actual temperature outside.
“It’s kind of what I signed up to do,” said Averre. “If I’m able to use my mind as well my physical abilities to help someone, then that is great.”
The exercises simulated a downed plane contaminated with an unknown agent as well as the need to process large numbers of people through the decontamination.
The first team to go to the plane is the perimeter inspection team used to contain and inspect outside of the targeted area. The second team used is entry team which recons inside the plane still garnering information and checking for further survivors or casualties while taking readings to gain preliminary assessments. The third team goes in to take the final sample that is going to be processed at a later time in a larger facility.
All this is done with the expectation of not spreading the chemicals or becoming over exerted carrying the weight of all of the gear.
“It really hits home because it could be your mom or dad,“ said Spc. Jason Meffely, CBRN of the year of the 101st Chemical Co. “Your emotions have the potential to play a major role in what you are doing out there. When you do this, it really is one of those unique skill sets that you really do not hear about it a lot until the day you are called to do it and all hell breaks loose.”