By Rachel Selby (Pine Bluff Arsenal)October 22, 2019
PINE BLUFF ARSENAL, Ark. -- Have you ever wondered how the Department of Defense detects chemical hazards in the field. DRSKO is the answer, and it's made at Pine Bluff Arsenal.
Dismounted Reconnaissance Sets, Kits and Outfits (DRSKO) is a system of sensors, detection devices, protective suits, boots, etc., providing capabilities to Soldiers in the field, helping them detect and isolate any chemical hazards. Each branch of service has their own DRSKO units, and these come with different requirements.
"The initial systems were done for the Army National Guard Civil Support Teams," said Rob Shields, Chief of Mobile and Powered Systems Division, Directorate of Chemical and Biological Defense Operations.
DRSKO is housed in what once was an empty building left after a previous mission concluded. Now, the building is full of items -- with shelving units packed and sorted, waiting to go into the systems for the various military units.
"We started building personal decontamination kits to for Army units," said Shields. "The Navy systems came next. We just finished our fourth batch of these. With the Army National Guard and Navy systems combined, we have completed approximately 114 units."
Shields said the Arsenal is currently doing systems for the Marine Special Operations Command or MARSOC and the Marine Expeditionary Unit Teams or MEU TMS. "These are new and is the first time we have done them," he said. "There is some overlap of equipment but each kit has unique items in them as well."
The Arsenal is slated to build MARSOC, MEUs and Army systems this year. "This year alone we are slated to build for the Army, Air Force, and two Marine Corps units. This is going to be our biggest year so far," said Allen Dehaghani, project engineer with PBA's Directorate of Engineering and Technology.
"This project was initiated with less than $12 million in funding," said Col. Luis Ortiz, commander, PBA. "The Arsenal has provided significant savings to the Army, and is the sole producer of DRSKO due to a contract expiration by a civilian company. We are currently doing production orders until 2025 and then will provide sustainment thereafter."
In addition to gaining work now from the Marines and Air Force, the Arsenal's DRSKO mission has expanded to include traveling logistics/sustainment support. "The support is for maintenance on all field Army, National Guard and Reserve DRSKO units worldwide," said Stephen Lee, who heads up the sustainment group for PBA's Directorate of Chemical and Biological Defense Operations.
The Arsenal support teams travel to unit locations, both in the United States and overseas, and provide field support to the DRSKO systems, including scheduled and unscheduled maintenance on the Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus and other equipment. These efforts help provide readiness to boots on the ground operations around the world. All of the PBA team members are all certified and have above operator-level training.
The sustainment teams have been busy, recently completing trips to Camp Humphreys in South Korea and Arifjan in Kuwait.
"We are averaging about four trips a month. When we get rolling, we will end up with eight trips a month per person on the team," said Lee. "This will add up to somewhere around 800-plus trips a year for the program."
The relationships the teams are building with the Soldiers on the ground has also been invaluable. "These guys are in touch with the same customer constantly -- every 90 days," said Lee. "There is turnover but continuity. There are points of contact with the units to call if there are issues with the equipment."