WARRENTON, Oregon - The biting cold onshore breeze stabs through the buildings at Camp Rilea on the Oregon coast, just south of Astoria. The salt-stained air is brightly lit by the steel grey sky. It is definitely woobie weather.
The cold weather helps keep service members cool inside the level B hazmat suits they have to wear to practice operations in a hazardous environment, according to Sgt. Aaron J. Stiner, with the 102nd Oregon CERFP. "A Soldier can lose 5 to 15 pounds of body weight while working in a level B hazard suit."
The 102nd Oregon Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) Defense Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) is a part of the Homeland Response Force, established by the Department of Defense. According to the National Guard Bureau, the 102nd CERFP provides incident response at the direction of the Oregon State Governor. The mission of the CERFP is to save lives and mitigate human suffering during an emergency.
"This is an introductory course for CBRN response elements. This is where they learn the basics of disaster response," said Capt. Brian W. Bodie, the operations and training officer for the 102nd Oregon CERFP. There is an academic portion where they learn about things like spill response, and there is a hands-on part where they learn to put on and move around in the suits that protect them.
The level B suits are bulky and consist of thick rubber boots, non-permeable waterproof overall with a hood, rubber gloves, and a mask that connects to a self-contained breathing apparatus comprising of an air tank and hose, or a powered air-purifying respirator. The suits, mask, boots, and gloves are secured to the Soldier or Airman using a special chemical resistant tape. They also learn to put the suits on and off and how to help their buddies out.
The Soldiers and Airmen completed training that would certify them to assist during an emergency involving chemical, biological, or radiological hazards. This training is required to be a member of the 102nd Oregon CERFP.
"The class was tough, and you have to study. It was pretty exciting," said Spc. Benitez.
The Hazardous Operations training course consists of classroom instruction and the use of specialized equipment. It also includes a comprehensive, written test. And a hands-on evaluation where students suit up. Nationally accredited emergency management organizations certify students. This training is a foundation for careers in the civilian world of emergency management.
If a service member is interested in a career in emergency management, these are foundational skills that are going to look great on their resumes. "We bring the instructors from Portland Community College and offer it to our service members at no cost said Capt. Bodie." It's a great benefit, and it's excellent training."