Last month, Army Reserve soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 301st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, went through a series of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) training exercises at Joint-Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

"It's going to be a hot area," said Master Sgt. Glenn T. Mitchell, a CBRN non-commissioned officer with the 301st. "Some of our soldiers could be going near a contaminated area, and you're going to want to know how to keep yourself safe."

"A CBRN weapon could potentially produce mass casualties," said Maj. Ryan H. Rhodes, company commander of HHC. "So knowing how to react to an attack can protect and save lives."

"Minutes can count, and seconds can count," added Rhodes. "Soldiers that are comfortable working in that kind of environment and conditions can be more effective during their mission."

A secondary reason for the training held was to prepare soldiers for the Command and Control Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear response (C2CRE) mission that HHC is assigned to. C2CRE units can be expected to rapidly deploy to respond to domestic (homeland) CBRN incidents, so it is vital that they are familiar with their equipment.

Mask Confidence Chamber

One of the highlights of the training was the mask confidence chamber, more commonly known as the "gas chamber," which many soldiers remembered all too well from basic training.

"I enjoyed it," said Spc. Valerie L. Moore, a microwave systems operator-maintainer, of the training. "They weren't messing around, they were getting things done."

"If there is an incident, and there's muscle memory or a feeling that something's not right with your body, you need to take action with protecting yourself." Said Spc. Sambathany R. Toun, from Tacoma.

"I would do it again," he added.

Warrior Tasks

In addition to the gas chamber, HHC soldiers were certified on other warrior training tasks that protect lives during a CBRN incident, including decontamination, use of the Joint Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST), and reacting (initial contact) to CBRN agents.

New and Improved!

Soldiers from HHC had a lot of positive feedback about the new M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask, which many of the soldiers had never used before. The M40, which is the older model that most soldiers were familiar with, is the field mask used by the Army since the 1980s. The M50, which was first fielded to the Army during the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom, offered numerous significant improvements in comfort, protection, and utility.

"I consider it a vast improvement," said Mitchell.

"During the initial fitting and testing, no one had a failed seal," he added. "Everyone made it through the fit test the first time The new filters also give more air, so soldiers are able to work harder, for longer periods of time."

"There's a better field of vision," said Cpt. William J. Sayin, an engineer officer with the 301st from Tacoma. "It's easier to clear."

"I like the new mask," said Moore. "They're a lot easier to use, they're more streamlined, and they fit better; a lot better."

"They look really cool, and they are a lot easier to use than the last ones," concluded Toun.