By Staff Sgt. Corey Baltos, USARNORTHJune 24, 2013
KILLEEN, Texas (June 24, 2013) -- Members of Golf Division, Civil Support Training Activity-Central, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), were at Fort Hood and Killeen, Texas, June 10-13 to provide Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Force training to three Fort Hood-based units in preparation for their annual certification requirements.
In the event of a catastrophic chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, or CBRN, incident happening in the United States, the first responders would be the local authorities followed by the state's National Guard civil support team. However, in the event they were unavailable, or the incident was too big for the local and state capabilities, there is another option. They can call in these active-duty military units that have assumed the Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Force, or DCRF, mission for the fiscal year.
The DCRF units undergo training and certification by Army North's Civil Support Training Activity-Central, or CSTA-C, to prepare for possible missions. The units trained were: the 44th Chemical Company, 2nd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade; the 546th Area Support Medical Company, or ASMC, and the 566th Area Support Medical Company, both with the 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 1st Medical Brigade.
"We're here to assess the units' ability to conduct survey operations of an area, as well as the sampling and presumptive analysis of possible hazardous materials, and the extraction and decontamination of casualties," said James Barkley, Golf division chief, CSTA-C, Army North.
This type of training is not new to the Soldiers of the 44th Chem. Co., as they have been part of the DCRF for almost a year.
"We assumed the DCRF mission on October 1st and will continue on mission until October 1st, 2014," said Capt. Damian Dixon, commander, 44th Chem. Co.
He explained they typically hold this mission for a one-year time period but they will be doing back-to-back missions.
The training they underwent was to prepare for their training proficiency evaluation. This evaluation is critical because it allows the unit to stay on the DCRF mission as well as maintaining key skills necessary for the job, Dixon said.
While the chemical company was the main focus of the training, the two area support medical companies assisted the 44th Chem. Co. by providing the ASMCs the opportunity to train before their proficiency evaluation in September and their participation in Vibrant Response 13-2, later this summer.
The 546th ASMC will be joining the 44th Chem. Co. on the DCRF mission next fiscal year.
"We wanted to participate in this training because it gave us a familiarization of our role providing medical support in the event of a CBRN (incident)," said Capt. Veronica Simmons, commander, 546th ASMC. "Since we'll be supporting the 44th (Chem. Co.) we wanted to establish a good working relationship with them before we assume the DCRF mission in the fall."
Both Dixon and Simmons said spending the week working together allowed the units the opportunity to get to know each other, instead of only working alongside each other later during an actual mission.
"While we've never had to do this mission for real, I know that in the event of a real situation, we'll be better prepared to help the American people because we've trained together," said Dixon.
The Soldiers said they enjoyed the training and found it challenging because it took many of them out of their comfort zone.
"I normally deal with setting up water and power. Now I'm wearing a (hazardous materials) suit and helping to decontaminate people," said Sgt. Gilbert Gomez, 44th Chem. Co., a mechanic who worked as a litter bearer for non-ambulatory "casualties" during the mass casualty decontamination portion of the training.
Due to the nature of the chemical company's mission, all Soldiers, regardless of their regular jobs, receive hazardous materials, or hazmat, awareness certification, which allows them to wear the hazmat suit correctly, as well as receiving Occupational Safety and Health Administration-certified hazmat operations and awareness classes.
"In the event of a real CBRN emergency, the unknown factors are the number of casualties and the extent of the incident," said Dixon. "So it's vital that all our Soldiers are trained to carry out the mission and help the American people."