By Mr. Stephen Standifird (Leonard Wood)September 15, 2016
Before toxic chemical-agent training can occur on Fort Leonard Wood at the E.F. Bullene Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Training Facility on Fort Leonard Wood, the personal protective equipment must be properly decontaminated, laundered, sterilized, reconditioned and inspected.
For the hundreds of CBRN defense students who participate in this specialized training each month, it would not be possible without the operations and maintenance contractors with URS Federal Services.
From the individuals who monitor all activity in the toxic-agent training area to those who conduct maintenance and decontamination, the staff is responsible for a significant portion of training at the CDTF, according to Jason Wilson, project manager.
"We have a responsibility of taking care of everything in the operations and maintenance area on this site," he said. "We do a lot of significant work out here. There are a lot of moving parts."
The CDTF conducts toxic CBRN defense training in a toxic CBRN agent environment for the Army, sister services and allied service members to enhance individual and collective proficiency and confidence in themselves and their equipment.
The contractors are not responsible for the instruction part of the training, but once the military cadre bring their students into the training area, they are under the watchful eyes of Wilson's staff.
The first step in the training for CBRN students is to receive personal protective gear they will be wearing in the toxic-agent training areas. All of those items are decontaminated, laundered, reconditioned and maintained by the team of PPE technicians on site.
"This process is very important," said Sabine Shick, engineering technician. "What we are trying to do is instill a sense of security that they know their gear works. If they are ever in a (CBRN defense) situation, they can at least say this equipment works, that it is protecting them."
A complete PPE overgarment takes about an hour and a half once it is removed from the decontamination bins to be laundered, sterilized, reconditioned, inspected and placed back on the shelves for another student or instructor to use, Shick said.
After receiving their equipment, the students and cadre are checked, and cleared to enter the toxic-agent training area.
"(My team is) responsible for coordinating everything inside of the hot area, including the lab, to ensure the engineering controls, operations level and personnel are in place to conduct any agent operations before they start," said Mickey Letcher, operations center safety controller operator. "Safety is the most important thing. Nothing gets started unless the safety is done first."
The contractors at the CDTF are not responsible for the toxic-agent lab, but are responsible for handling the agent in the training area, said Joshua Bates, deputy project manager.
"This is it, the real thing," Letcher said. "This is the best training they will probably have. At the end of their training, with all of their schoolwork done, they come here and they actually see it, and do it. The more we can make it realistic, the better it will be for everybody."
Following the training, the protective equipment is placed into special decontamination bins with integrated chemical agent air monitoring sample ports.
This equipment is monitored overnight and is only removed for the laundry and reconditioning process once the air monitoring reports definitively show the equipment is safe to handle.
Any protective suit that comes into direct contact with liquid nerve agent during training is immediately segregated, decontaminated and processed for destruction.
The process is the same for each and every training course that enters the CDTF, and it's the folks behind the scene that make it possible, said Wilson.
"We give a pretty good service to the military, and we just hope to continue doing that in the future," Bates said.