By Al Vogel
Dugway Proving Ground Public Affairs
DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- In 2015, the Department of Defense issued the Initial Capabilities Document for Contamination Decontamination, identifying what worked, and what was needed, after a chemical attack or incident.
One gap noted was the need for the average Soldier to quickly decontaminate sensitive items -- radios, optics, scopes and computer systems -- and allow them to remain operational until reaching a decontamination station.
The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical Biological Defense proposed essentially a sealed towelette -- moistened with substances that physically remove chemical agent from sensitive items without damage. The Joint Service Equipment Wipe program followed, to examine the feasibility and effectiveness of a disposable wipe. The CeBeR, created by the STERIS Corp. of Ohio, manufacturer of chemical and biological decontamination systems, was selected.
Since 2015, Dugway has tested the CeBeR wipes in labs to determine their coverage and effectiveness on gas masks, respirators and samples of protective clothing. Recently, the CeBeR wipe returned to Dugway for hands-on testing by Soldiers from Utah, Georgia and Texas in authentic scenarios simulating chemical agent attacks.
Twenty five Soldiers from the Utah National Guard and 92nd Chemical Company of Fort Stewart, Georgia participated in the scenarios. Soldiers from Operational Test Command of Fort Hood, Texas came to observe and train.
"The JSEW physically removes gross contamination, so the Soldier can continue on their mission and receive a more thorough decontamination later," said Allen Holdaway, project manager for Dugway's Chemical Test Division. "Until the JSEW was developed, there was nothing to decontaminate sensitive equipment."
Erica Howell, product manager for the JSEW program, and Joint Program Executive Officer for Chemical and Biological Defense, said that if adopted, the CeBeR wipe will augment or replace the M295, a mitt containing powdered decontaminant.
Dugway's spaciousness (800,000 acres under controlled airspace) allowed scenarios that began on dirt roads and included a 4-mile drive to a concrete decontamination pad. At the beginning of each scenario, the patrol of three Humvees and 12 Soldiers were halted by the appearance of a simulated roadside bomb. Two pyrotechnic devices exploded slightly upwind of them, 200 feet above, releasing a yellow cloud to simulate agent.
Soldiers quickly donned protective clothing and gas masks. A pause was called while Dugway test personnel used hand sprayers to "contaminate" key areas of the Soldiers and their vehicles with a benign simulant. Once spraying was completed, the scenario resumed.
Soldiers pulled the CeBeR packets from their pockets and tore them open to expose the five wipes within. They worked methodically, but quickly, to remove most of the simulant from their gas masks, radios, weapons and vehicles, then drove to the decontamination pad. At the pad, they continued CeBeR decontamination. Evaluators then assessed the effectiveness of the wipes and questioned the Soldiers about their field use.
Testing scenarios continued into early April and included night scenarios to use the CeBeR wipes on night vision equipment and in the dark.
Maj. James Flott of Operational Test Command, and operational test officer for the JSEW program, praised Dugway's modern facilities and ample room for vehicle scenarios.
"Dugway's facilities can accommodate all the things you need to conduct an operational test," Flott said. "You definitely have the land and space, and a highly trained cadre. Most (Dugway test personnel) are prior service, which helps with the planning process and test execution."
If adopted, the JSEW wipes will receive the nomenclature M334, and Warfighters will begin receiving them in the fall.
"The least difficult portion of hands-on outdoor testing is finding motivated and willing test participants to carry out the exercise," Holdaway said. "I have not found a more focused group of Soldiers and civilians determined to make this exercise as successful as possible."