Chemical Corps celebrates 105 years of service during regimental week festivities

By Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs OfficeJune 29, 2023

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood’s U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School is hosting the Army Chemical Corps’ annual regimental week celebration here through Friday.

With events designed to honor its heritage, while also recognizing recent accomplishments of CBRN Soldiers and civilians across the Army, the annual celebration is a chance for the entire enterprise to reconnect, according to Col. W. Bochat, USACBRNS commandant and host.

The week kicked off on Monday, with an Airborne operation at Forney Airfield, in memory of Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, a CBRN specialist, who was killed while performing a mission in Africa, in 2017.

The static-line military parachute operation included about 40 CBRN Soldiers, who jumped from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Capt. David Korista, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, 528th Sustainment Brigade, at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, was one of the Soldiers performing the operation.

“This is the paratrooper side of chemical coming together and celebrating one of our fallen brothers,” Korista said. “In chemical, we do all sorts of things. We work with infantry, special forces, artillery, armor — all the different branches. We’re a jack of all trades, but master of chemical.”

Many of the Soldiers at the memorial jump knew and worked alongside Johnson, including Sgt. 1st Class Quentin Wilkinson, who deployed with Johnson — or “J.W.,” as Wilkinson called him — as part of a chemical reconnaissance detachment, a unit that works with special forces to, among other things, detect and identify CBRN agents.

“J.W. was a special dude; he was a fun dude,” Wilkinson said, adding the operation also provided a great opportunity to show the rest of the Chemical Corps a little of what a CRD does. “It feels like sometimes a lot of people don’t know, and there’s a lot of hard work and sacrifice that goes into being in one. Taking the opportunity to come out here and jump — we get to show the rest of the Chemical Corps there’s more, and this is what we do to support and remember our guys.”

Also in attendance was Johnson’s mother, Debbie Gannon, who drove here from South Carolina.

“If I know of something that they’re doing for my son, I’m there,” she said. “I think it’s fantastic that they honor him and carry on his name like this.”

Gannon said her son loved his work and the camaraderie that came along with it.

“He loved parachuting; he loved jumping,” she said. “He’d call me and say, ‘I’m going to work,’ and I knew that meant he was going off somewhere to do something.”

Tuesday was the opening of the Chemical Corps Regimental Association’s 2023 CBRN Exhibition at Nutter Field House.

The two-day event brought together more than 30 industry leaders to showcase emerging technologies.

Also on Tuesday, a spouses event provided a chance for family members to learn more about the history of the Chemical Corps, while also getting hands-on experiences with some of the CBRN training performed here.

The event, which brought more than 20 spouses together, took place at several locations throughout the day, including the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex, the Lt. Joseph Terry CBRN First Responder Training Facility and the Chemical Defense Training Facility, said Capt. Jessica Turner, commander of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, and the spouses event organizer.

Andrew Bochat, spouse of the USACBRNS commandant, said he feels events like this work to bring the Chemical Corps closer together.

“The Chemical Corps is a very small family,” he said. “You meet new people, of course, but the best part is that it’s like a reunion.”

Getting to actually try-on some of the protective gear CBRN Soldiers wear — in the heat of a Missouri summer — was a “reality check,” Bochat added.

“You’re always proud of your spouse, but you’re even more proud when you see what exactly they do and you kind of feel what they have to do,” he said.

Wednesday’s events began early, when CBRN leaders hosted a sunrise memorial service in honor of fallen CBRN service members at Soldier Memorial Chapel.

After a reading of the combat history of the Chemical Corps, Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Quitugua Jr. spoke on what it means to serve something “bigger than ourselves.”

“The average American does not have to think too much about the idea of passing on,” he said. “Sure, they understand it is inevitable, but it’s also a discussion for another day. The American Soldier does not have that same luxury. For many of us, sustained conflict is the only Army we have known for our entire careers — for the majority of our lives. We became comfortable with the possibility of death a long time ago. How? How do you get up every single morning, knowing you serve an institution that may require of you the one thing you can only give once. It’s simple. We do it, believing we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We do it, knowing that our sacrifice may enable others to live, believing whole-heartedly, with our last breath, that they will finish the mission for us.”

Also during the ceremony, the USACBRNS command team — which includes Bochat, Quitugua and Regimental Chief Warrant Officer 4 Humphrey Hills II — laid a wreath “in honor of our fallen comrades.”

This morning, 100 CBRN Soldiers were split into 10 teams of 10 to compete in what was called the Regimental Dragon Challenge. The competition, which took place at the NCO Academy track and field, included team events such as sled pulls, pushups and litter carries — all to help forge relationships through “tough, realistic, fun and challenging physical training,” said Sgt. 1st Class Toddrick Murry, first sergeant for Company B, 3-10 In. Reg. and a member of the winning team.

Murry said the highlight of the morning was when the event organizers added a twist — they mixed up the teams at the last second.

“This allowed Soldiers from across the Chemical Corps and the Army to meet someone new, foster new relationships and strengthen the Chemical Corps as a whole,” he said.

Later this morning, Bochat, along with Quitugua and Hills, provided remarks on the state of the regiment at Lincoln Hall Auditorium.

Hills highlighted some of the work accomplished so far, with regards to the CBRN Warrant Officer Program — initiated in 2010, to better incorporate technical expertise and systems integration into the Chemical Corps — and work still to be done.

Hills noted three initiatives, “that are important to ensuring the continued success of the cohort into the future.” These included recruiting and retention; leader development; and training and modernization efforts.

“We look forward to the continued growth and maturity of the CBRN warrant officer program, as we clearly understand the demand with world events that are ongoing and emerging,” Hills said. “The warrant officer corps may be small in numbers but must remain large concerning impact. Although we have come a long way since the inception of this program, there is still work to be done. I am extremely confident that we will continue to recruit and select the most-qualified candidates to become CBRN warrant officers. And we will surely continue to pursue excellence.”

Hills was followed by Quitugua, the senior enlisted advisor to the USACBRNS commandant, who spoke on the strengths of the enlisted force — more specifically, the 74D CBRN Specialist military occupational specialty — which, he noted, makes up more than 80 percent of the Chemical Corps.

Quitugua spoke on many of the strengths of the newest generation of civilians volunteering to serve their country, noting their entire lives have been shaped by conflict and new technology.

“When the smartest, most fully informed generation of the century decide to serve their country, they can honestly say — probably more so than any of us — that they did it for the most selfless of reasons,” he said.

Quitugua also spoke on the NCO Corps, calling them “just as powerful.”

“CBRN NCOs across the Army are expertly leading these very same Soldiers, while providing sound and timely guidance to our officer counterparts,” he said.

In her remarks, Bochat — who took the USACBRNS commandant position less than a month ago — laid out her vision for the Chemical Corps.

“We will develop leaders that are disciplined, intellectually curious, able to not only adapt, but out-maneuver and out-think our enemies,” she said. “As a team, our regiment will come up with concepts. As a team, we will push the concepts to completion. As a team, we will come up with doctrine on how to use the new technologies and train Soldiers to fight on the battlefield, especially when we find ourselves in a CBRN environment. We are all more successful when we rally around the regiment and pool our power, experiences and connections.”

Following the State of the Regiment, the Regimental Honors Ceremony took place, providing the opportunity to recognize individuals who have served the Chemical Corps with distinction.

The event began with a recognition of this year’s Best CBRN Warrior Competition winners: 1st Lt. Connor Macky and Staff Sgt. Joseph Feola, with the 95th CBRN Company at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

The three-day competition, held in April, pitted 27 two-person teams in competition on technical and tactical tasks, ranging from land navigation and expert Soldier skills, to written exams and site characterization and decontamination techniques. In total, 59 tasks were graded, and 25 teams made it to the finish.

Next, the Chemical Corps inducted four Soldiers into the Honorable Order of the Dragon. These individuals included 1st Sgt. Nekoesha Taylor, and Sgts. 1st Class David Arnold, Chris Jones and Rebecca Trigg.

The Sibert Award was then presented to the top companies in the active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve, and the top-performing team or detachment across all components. The award is named after Maj. Gen. William Sibert, often referred to as the “father of the Chemical Corps.”

This year’s winners included the 10th Chemical Company, from Fort Carson, Colorado, in the active category; the 272nd Chemical Company, from Reading, Massachusetts, in the National Guard category; the 320th CBRN Company, from Fort Totten, New York, in the Reserve category; and the 82nd Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment, from Fort Carson, Colorado, in the team or detachment category.

The Distinguished Member of the Corps Award was also presented during the ceremony to retired Brig. Gen. William King IV, who served more than 30 years on active duty and continues to support CBRN modernization in the private sector.

The award is extended to members, who served the Chemical Corps in their professional lives and continue to serve it in their personal lives. The nominations are limited to personnel who have been retired from active federal service for at least two years.

Lastly, the Chemical Corps inducted two individuals into its Hall of Fame, reserved for individuals who have “made a legacy of landmark contributions and the most significant actions to the overall history and traditions of the Chemical Corps. These individuals have distinguished themselves through advances in science and technology, a lifetime of service and devotion to the corps, gallantry in battle or have died with honor in combat.”

This year’s inductees included Capts. John Beek and Jerry Denny, who, along with fellow Chemical officer Capt. Paul Bowman — himself, a 2010 Hall of Fame inductee — died when their helicopter crashed while they were assisting in the capture a North Vietnamese Army bunker complex in 1970, near Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam. The efforts of the aircrew — along with Beek, Bowman and Denny — were recognized by their fellow Soldiers on the ground as being key to capturing the complex and saving lives.

Regimental week continues this evening at the Green Dragon Ball, set to take place at Nutter Field House, and on Friday, when the CCRA hosts a golf scramble, set to begin at 8 a.m. at Piney Valley Golf Course.

Photos from throughout the week are available to view and download on the Fort Leonard Wood Flickr page.