By Mr. Stephen Standifird (Leonard Wood)February 25, 2016
Three students fully enclosed in blue personal protective suits approach a turned-over rail car.
Their detection equipment audibly beeps, indicating a contaminant is in the area. Between heavy breaths on their self-contained breathing apparatus, the team relays the situation to the command center.
This site reconnaissance was one of the steps required by students during the field training exercise portion of the two-week Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Responder Course at the 1st Lt. Joseph Terry CBRN Response Training Facility.
Students attending this course are given the basic skills required to respond to a weapon-of-mass-destruction incident, according to the course description.
The course includes training and familiarization on, personal protective equipment, emergency response in-transit procedures, planning and preparing for domestic reconnaissance operations, the fundamentals of toxic industrial chemicals and materials, sampling and collection procedures and the procedures to set-up, process through and close out a survey team decontamination site.
Successful course completion earns students' certification from the National Fire Protection Association for hazardous material operations and hazardous materials technician.
"These certifications can take a long time to get, and we do it in two weeks," said Terry Gulley, supervisory instructor.
Gulley added there are multiple performance evaluations and written tests, all of which are difficult.
Sgt. 1st Class Richard Shumate, a student in the course, agreed it was a tough course, but rewarding overall.
"Just the awareness with this course is beneficial," said the Arkansas National Guard Soldier. "This course provides the operational and technical aspects of CBRN response. (The instructors) have taught us exactly what we need to know and how to do it well."
As a police officer in Arkansas, Shumate said he normally is the first person on the scene. This course will help him have more knowledge than the other officers, so he can direct them on how to proceed, he said.
Gulley and his staff typically train 24 students in each of the 20 times the course is offered annually. The course is open to all federal agencies and services. International students have also attended.
"Most of the students come through because these are skills they need for their job," Gulley said.
Air Force students who graduate are typically in emergency management occupations, while Soldiers and Marines take this class as part of their CBRN military occupational specialty training, he added.
Air Force Senior Airman Lesley Grant, 133rd Airlift Wing, Minneapolis, Minnesota, said the information she is learning will pay off for her unit as soon as she graduates.
"At the base, I am in charge of running the chemical response program," she said. "I make sure all of our instruments for CBRN response are working and are up to specifications. I'm also helping write the disaster plan for the base."