Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD – In the fall of 2021, three scientists from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center (DEVCOM CBC) participated in the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) Scientist to Sea program held aboard the USS Gunston Hall, a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship, in Norfolk, Virginia.
Scientist to Sea is part of a larger Scientist in Action program that has four iterations – Scientist in the Foxhole (U.S. Army), Scientist on the Flight Line (U.S. Air Force), Scientist to Sea (U.S. Navy) and Scientist in the Sand (U.S. Marine Corps). The program provides scientists with first-hand experience in operationally relevant environments to help them understand operational capabilities and conditions.
Scientist to Sea is specifically designed for scientists working on chemical, biological or radiological (CBR) defense projects to gain knowledge and experience onboard a Naval vessel. Through this program, Janlyn Eikenberg, Dr. Jennifer Soliz and Dr. Anne Walker, DEVCOM CBC scientists with the Research and Technology Directorate, received first-hand training from Navy CBR personnel, were briefed on current technologies employed on the ship and witnessed a mock decontamination procedure. There were opportunities to directly interact with Sailors and gain insight on ways to improve their on-going research to help increase situational awareness.
Eikenberg and Soliz explained that the reason they signed up for Scientist to Sea was to experience the Sailors’ daily routine as well as to understand the challenges they encounter. “My laboratory experience cannot simulate events such as this. I appreciate the opportunity to have this type of direct exposure,” Soliz said, adding that being able to see how the Sailors and Marines work together in operations was very useful.
The unique opportunity provided the scientists with insights into how their research could be improved and integrated to support the Sailors and the mission. Eikenberg said, “Getting to walk through an onboard personnel decontamination line was very enlightening for how such an activity would be done aboard ship.”
The scientists also learned about the need for robust technologies that can withstand high levels of relative humidity and sea atmospheres, as having spare parts and repairing sensitive equipment can be a significant challenge while deployed at sea. Soliz said that she appreciated being briefed on the current technologies onboard and the challenges Sailors face in their missions.
While completing the program, participants had to work within COVID-19 protocols, which restricted some experiences for the safety of Sailors onboard. However, from this experience the scientists came away with a deep appreciation for the Sailors’ service and daily routine. By gaining a better understanding of how CBR activities are handled onboard a ship, as well as how the Sailors handled it, they were able to return to their labs and shape their research to meet the needs of the Sailors. This includes addressing the need for robust and rugged technologies to overcome harsh environmental challenges while also keeping the technologies simple for the warfighter to employ.
For more information about the DEVCOM Chemical Biological Center, visit https://cbc.DEVCOM.army.mil