By Sgt. Andrea Merritt, 4th Public Affairs DetachmentMarch 16, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, March 16, 2011) -- Soldiers here field-tested the newest equipment for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear reconnaissance during an exercise Feb. 28 - March 4.
The new M1135 NBC Reconnaissance Vehicle, a Stryker-platform vehicle capable of detecting and identifying chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, commonly referred to as CBRN, hazards, was used by Soldier of the 181st CBRN Company. They also field-tested the new Dismounted Reconnaissance Sets, Kits and Outfits, or DRSKO.
Outwardly the modular DRSKO looks like an unmarked storage container. But equipment inside allows Soldiers to detect and identify CBRN hazards as well as toxic industrial chemicals and materials. It also contains a variety of protective suits and equipment for decontamination, sample collection, marking contaminated areas, and hazard reporting.
"The equipment we have is an extreme improvement over what's been around in the past," said 1st Lt. Jaciel Guerrero, the 3rd Platoon leader, 181st CBRN Company. "Not only do we have the capabilities to detect conventional weapons of mass destruction, normal chemical agents, biological, radiological and nuclear agents, but now we can detect a lot of the industrial chemicals and industrial materials you may find anywhere, no matter what country or what region you're in."
The NBC RV Stryker, unlike its predecessor the M93A1 Fox, provides protection from small arms fire, houses a remote weapons system which enables the platoon to provide its own security, and has equipment that allows the Soldiers inside to collect samples without ever getting out of the vehicle.
"It's not just a chemical vehicle," said Sgt. Dustin Goldman, an NBC RV truck commander with 4th Platoon of the 181st CBRN Co. "It's a combat vehicle with chemical capabilities."
In the past year, the 181st CBRN Company has conducted various training on the equipment in locations such as Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. After a six-month fielding process, it was the first chemical unit to use the new equipment in a practical field exercise.
"Everyday's a learning process for us," said Spc. Eric Klopp, a surveyor with 4th Platoon, 181st CBRN Co. "We might find a mistake here and there in our training methods and we correct them on the spot. There isn't really a general set [Standard Operating Procedure] on this piece of equipment yet, so we are kind of creating our own as we go."
As Soldiers of the mounted reconnaissance platoon trained with the NBC RV, the Soldiers of the 3rd Platoon, 181st CBRN Co., the dismounted reconnaissance platoon, conducted sensitive site assessments with the DRSKO.
"Not only are we a platoon that can deal with emergency situations, but we can also help civil affairs," said Guerrero."(If) you have a village where people are maybe getting sick and showing symptoms of certain types of chemicals or materials that may be toxic to a human, we can go out there, we can test water, we can test soil. We can test the walls inside of a building; pretty much anything the person may have come in contact with."
After training separately for a few days with their new equipment, the platoons were ready to work together on a mission, which culminated the last day of the exercise.
During the training scenario, the mounted reconnaissance platoon cleared a path toward the objective then provided overwatch as the dismounted platoon conducted a sensitive site assessment on the target.
"We've had the unique opportunity with mounted and dismounted systems to be able to combine those two in a more urban environment which is what we're generally seeing in combat today," said 1st Lt. Allison Brown, the executive officer for the 181st CBRN Co.
Despite hours holed up inside the NBC RV Stryker and hours covered in hot, protective gear from the DRSKO, the Soldiers were excited to work with the equipment and put 100 percent effort into the training.
"It's really great to see Soldiers be excited about their job because when they are, they work their hardest," Brown said. "It's an easy job for the leadership and it's a privilege to be around Soldiers who are enthusiastic, motivated and ready to work every single day."
Through the training, Soldiers not only gained valuable knowledge and experience from using the new equipment, but also insight into what it's like to be on the cutting edge of CBRN reconnaissance technology.
"The challenge is to field the new equipment and to make sure that all the Soldiers are constantly trained on the most cutting-edge technology that the Chemical Corps has to offer," Brown said.