By Mrs. Martha Yoshida (Leonard Wood)September 17, 2015
Chemical Corps warrant officers are accustomed to working in constricted spaces.
From airtight HAZMAT suits to reconnaissance vehicles that are only about three feet wider than an average individual's arm span, warrant officers adapt and adjust to provide expertise in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense.
Recently, CBRN warrant officers gained some elbow room though, as Fort Leonard Wood became one of only two Army installations to offer a working replica of the nuclear, biological, chemical reconnaissance vehicle, or Stryker, which detects the presence of toxic agents in the field.
The new classroom replica is second to the one maintained at the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps, Fort Gordon, Georgia.
"The Stryker is a premier piece of equipment for us, and a huge asset that we provide to the maneuver force," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Chrisman, U.S. Army CBRN School chief regimental warrant officer.
Chrisman explained, the maintenance and troubleshooting course is typically taught to electronic systems repair technicians at Fort Gordon.
"The CBRN School thought it was important to bring this capability here to teach this to the warrant officers and reconnaissance specialists," he said. "We are CBRN Soldiers. It's a CBRN vehicle. These are CBRN maintenance issues."
"These Soldiers are going to be with that vehicle 24/7, so it made sense," he said.
Instead of sending individual warrant officers to Fort Gordon, two instructors from the Ordnance Corps came to Fort Leonard Wood to provide two weeks of hands-on training, which took place during the second half of the 16-week Warrant Officer Basic Course.
Sgt. Shawn Foster, electronic maintenance instructor, Fort Gordon Ordnance Training Detachment, said this was the first time he has had chemical warrant officers come through one of his courses in the two years that he has been teaching.
Foster, a Baltimore, Maryland, native, said, warrant officers maneuver at an operator, rather than maintenance level, and the course is intended to show them how to prepare the NBCRV sensors and maintain their equipment.
"They understand the chemical portion very well," the 16-year Army veteran, said. "When it comes to maintenance, they don't know all the electronic terms, but they can pick that up pretty easily. They won't actually do the maintenance, but at least they will have an idea of what their maintenance personnel go through to fix the equipment."
During the course, students follow a series of scenarios that require them to run through their troubleshooting and maintenance procedures, Foster said.
According to Chris Craig, defense contractor, rather than training in the confines of the eight-wheeled vehicle, the new classroom environment allows easy access to the equipment by more than one or two people at a time, so they can fully understand what it takes to maintain the NBCRV.
Instead of crawling around the vehicle to deal with alarms and events, the classroom provides a suite of equipment, sensors and software that communicate through a dashboard, monitoring all the sensors from one computer screen, Craig added.
"The vehicle cabling and actual Stryker equipment in the classroom fully replicates what they would work on in the Stryker in the real world," Craig said. "It provides a lot of efficiency and the ability to manage multiple events."
"This is an easier way of introducing parts directly to the sensor equipment they are focused on," said Staff Sgt. Robert Blihovde, OEMTD Fort Gordon.
"They go through the troubleshooting process using an interactive manual, which gives the whole class the ability to go through all of the steps and to see the flow of troubleshooting and maintenance, too. It does take a little practice in following some of the instructions and this is a better environment to do that in," he said.
"This is the latest version of the 1135 Stryker. It is all new and put together here by the cadre, and hopefully it will have a big impact on their capabilities. I think it will," the Florida native added.
Without the classroom environment to model the 1135 Stryker, students would either not receive the training, or would have to learn about the system in the vehicle itself, Blihovde said.
Warrant Officer 1 Derrick Nelson, a student from New Jersey, said he was glad that he finally had a chance to learn more about the Stryker.
"This is a good class in the sense that it is a piece of equipment that many of us have not used before and have not seen," Nelson said. "The Stryker is something you always hear about. The way that we're able to use the mock up and actually go through all the checks of the system, you really respect the equipment for what it can do and its abilities. We're definitely learning a lot."
With only a few days left to complete the entire course, Stan Kusko, CBRN School Reconnaissance and Surveillance Division chief, said, "As we go forward with both this instruction and the NBCRV instruction, this is going to be a valued source in helping students both operate and maintain this system so they can be a multiplier for combatant commanders and operational forces."
With the new NBCRV sensor suite simulator on-hand, the CBRN School plans to transition the instruction of the NBCRV Stryker training from Fort Gordon to Fort Leonard Wood, Kusko added.