IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Two U.S. Army health physicists from the 1st Area Medical Laboratory were selected to instruct a radiological hazards course, which is only offered once a year for U.S. service members, at the Idaho National Laboratory Aug. 9 – 19.
Capt. Daniel W. Arguello and 1st Lt. Joshua D. Salazar taught the Radiological Hazards Operations Course here at one of the nation’s premier research institutes for nuclear energy.
Both officers are from the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland-based 1st AML, which is part of the 44th Medical Brigade with oversight for training and readiness by the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command.
Soldiers and units from the 1st AML perform surveillance, laboratory test and health hazard assessments of environmental, occupational, endemic disease and CBRNE threats to support force protection and Weapons of Mass Destruction missions.
The 20th CBRNE Command, which is also headquartered on Aberdeen Proving Ground, is the Department of Defense’s premier all hazards command. From 19 military bases in 16 states, Soldiers and civilians from 20th CBRNE Command deploy around the world to confront and eliminate chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive weapons and hazards.
Salazar and Arguello were invited to teach the course by the CBRN Sciences Branch at the Medical Center of Excellence on Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
“The focus of the training is to train Army and sister service personnel to respond to accidents and incidents involving radiation or radioactive materials, conduct radioactive source recovery operations and provide radiological site assessments of areas suspected to be contaminated with radioactive material,” said Salazar, a Houston native and former enlisted health physics technician who previously served as an instructor at the Defense Nuclear Weapons School on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Army and Air Force students from different occupational specialties attended the course, including specialists in audiology, environmental science, CBRN, military intelligence and emergency management personnel. The service members had the opportunity to encounter air, water and soil samples that contain radiological material during the training.
An 890-square-mile site with nuclear infrastructure and expertise, Idaho National Laboratory provides the ideal location for classroom and field training, according to Arguello.
“Idaho National Lab has access to training aids for radiological scenarios, safety staff and training facilities for the scenarios we presented to the students,” said Arguello, a 1st AML health physicist. “We worked in radiologically contaminated environments and in high radiation fields.”
Arguello, who also serves as the deputy chief of Health Physics at the Army Public Health Center, attended the same radiological hazards course as a student in 2018. He has done similar training at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
“We conveyed how important and exciting the Army's radiological mission is,” said Arguello, who is originally from Cheyenne, Wyoming. “The students should understand the skill set that nuclear medical science officers and health physics technicians bring to the fight. I want them to take this back to their units and further train their own Soldiers.”
Col. Matt Grieser, the commander of the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, said Arguello and Salazar were great examples of the expertise resident in this one-of-a-kind Army command.
“Through this course, these outstanding health physicists are helping to keep our military ready to fight and win in an all hazards environment,” said Grieser.
The 1st AML commander added that he was grateful to the Idaho National Laboratory and its staff for hosting this critical training for U.S. troops.
“We are fortunate to have great partners like the staff at this world class laboratory facility who make this training possible,” said Grieser. “They are helping our service members to hone their critical hazard identification and life-saving skills.”