By Amy Newcomb (Fort Leonard Wood)June 28, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- The U.S. Chemical Corps Regiment commemorated its 94th anniversary by kicking off a two-week celebration with the Best Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Warrior Competition June 17-22.
Winners of the competition were teammates Staff Sgt. Maliek Kearney and Staff Sgt. Zachery Jones of the 22nd Chemical Battalion in Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., which was announced during the Green Dragon Ball Saturday.
Kearney said his team came in second place in last year's Best CBRN Warrior Competition by only four points, so he wanted to come back this year with new teammate Jones, to prove they could go all the way.
"We motivated each other. We knew from training with each other and knowing each other our strengths and weaknesses and when we needed to pick up the motivation," Kearney said. "We made it happen."
Jones said he has known Kearney for a long time and they complimented each other perfectly throughout the competition.
"It took coordination, prior preparation … so, we prepared and we came out here and did what we could," Jones said.
Both Kearney and Jones expressed how important teamwork was in order to compete in a competition like the Best Joint CBRN Warrior Competition.
"You have to humble yourself. It's not always about you; it's about your team, and as long as you motivate your battle buddy and your Soldiers, you can get the job done," Kearney said.
"No matter how much you know or think you know going into something, you never know as much as you think, so you have to rely on somebody to help you out and pick up that slack -- we definitely did that," Jones added.
Kearney and Jones each received a $1,000 Visa gift card and a George L. Murray bust from the Chemical Corps Regimental Association, a Coin of Excellence rack from Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. (Retired) Pete Hiltner and wife Sonny, Coins of Excellence from various senior leaders across the entire CBRN regiment and Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, and Wiley X sunglasses and all-purpose gloves from the Military Police Regimental Association.
Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Arnold, U.S. Army CBRN School, said this competition and its competitors are vital to the Chemical Corps because "it helps identify who the very best is."
"We want our very best leading our formations into the future. Our regiment will continue to provide combatant commanders with the best trained and equipped CBRN personnel and units in order to protect the nation at home and abroad," Arnold said.
New to this year's competition was the addition of the Army's sister services, which Arnold said may prove a stepping-stone to opening the competition internationally in the future.
"Our sister services are our Unified Action Partners; we must work together," he said. "We can't call the competition the "Best CBRN Warrior" unless we give the entire CBRN community the chance to compete."
"It is also the reason why commissioned officers are allowed to compete as well," he added.
Competitors underwent extensive preparation in order to compete.
"They must hit the books and study; they must become proficient in all aspects of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear operations, including all equipment," he said. "Furthermore, they must prepare physically to endure the physical challenges they will face along with the basic warrior tasks they must complete successfully in order to have a chance at winning."
Marine Staff Sgt. Mat Burks and Marine Sgt. Justin Burkett said they enjoyed competing against the Army during this year's competition.
"We were looking forward to seeing how our skills matched up with (the Army's)," Burks said. "I think (the competition) reinforced skills that we already learned, just maybe had forgotten or put off to the side for a little while, but it definitely involved some things I haven't done in a year or two."
Both Burks and Burkett said they would recommend that more competitors from the Marine Corps join next year's competition.
"There is strength in numbers," Burkett said. "I think it did help reinforce several things as far as sister services -- kind of that we are all working to a degree on some of the same planes and the same measurements."
The competition began with 27 teams and each two-man team was tested throughout the week in several events beginning with the Army Physical Fitness Test mystery event and Confidence Course, Monday.
The mystery event included a team litter shuttle where teams had to carry a 165-pound dummy for half a mile and complete three events with a 16- pound medicine ball. The last event consisted of a 1.5-mile team run where team members had to finish side-by-side.
On day two and three, half of the competitors went to the Lt. Terry Responder Training Facility and the other half went to the Chemical Defense Training Facility to suit up in Level A protective gear.
During the Incident Response Training Department event at the Terry Facility, teams had to complete six stations, five of which were timed.
Master Sgt. Jose Hernandez, IRTD noncommissioned officer-in-charge, said competitors were tested on tasks performed by first responders.
"They are being evaluated on how to inspect (Level A protective gear), how to mitigate a leaking container and at the end, how to transport a casualty out of a hazard area," Hernandez said. "Here, they are doing more of what would be a real world, consequence management type of incident on the homeland."
At station one, Soldiers had 12 minutes to inspect and prepare the gear they would use during the following four scenarios, which included an inventory of their protective clothing and breathing apparatus.
After they had donned their Level A protective gear, each team headed to station two, which featured a type of pressure rail car leaking large amounts of unknown fluid. The goal was to select the correct tools and contain the leaks within 10 minutes.
"This station is a high pressure assembly, like a chlorine leak, and they have a kit that they have to apply onto either the valves or the pressure relief valve and stop the leak," said John Kalstad, station two grader. "The difficult part -- some of this stuff is heavy equipment. It's hard to lift up there and get everything lined up and tightened down -- it takes time."
During the station three scenario, competitors had to contain a leak on a pressure vessel.
"This is a one-ton container and what makes it difficult is they have two separate leaks and if they concentrate on one, they are going to miss it and there is an order they have to go in -- if they don't do the small leak first, it makes it difficult to do once they cap the other one," said Dale Plummer, grader for station three.
Station four featured a leaking 55-gallon drum, which weighed approximately 350 pounds, said Scott Stern, station four grader. Each team had to correctly contain the leak, to include placing the heavy container in an 85-gallon overpack and sealing the top before time ran out.
"The most difficult part is getting the barrel inside the overpack -- it's filled with water," he said. "They have to use the leak control kit to patch the leak, and then next they have to get it in the overpack for transport."
The final station, or the Buddy Rescue, proved the most difficult for the two-man teams, largely because it was the last scenario they had to complete, according to Michael Reed, station five grader. It involved locating and securing a casualty -- a 200- pound dummy -- and hiking uphill after completing the other four stations in full Level A protective gear.
"The objective is to locate a downed responder that has gone down for various reasons … put him on a stretcher, ascertain what his condition is and then move him to an area of safety (after) they have already done all the other stations," Reed said. "They have to physically take the responder, load him up and then carry him out of the hot zone into an area of safety and this one happens to be at the top of a hill."
The Dragon's Peak Course challenge at the CDTF involved each team entering a mock living quarters in an urban living environment somewhere in Southwest Asia, where intelligence indicated weapons of mass destruction material was being produced. Each team had to don Level A protective gear, enter a toxic environment, secure a casualty, take samples and complete the mission with as much accuracy as possible.
Capt. Venancio Castro, CDTF officer-in-charge, said the tasks that competitors had to accomplish were altered from last year's competition, although each team was still evaluated on their technique during the scenarios.
"There (were) three major areas that we evaluated them in and one of them (was) a major area -- evaluating a casualty that has been exposed to chemicals," Castro said. "The other one (was) to conduct proper entry procedures into a known, chemically contaminated room and to conduct the actual sensitive site assessment with an exploitation portion of it so we can collect the proper data required to make a determination of what was in the bay or what was going on in that scenario."
The scenarios conducted at the CDTF were unique because competitors had to enter an environment with live agents. The live agents each team faced during the scenario were both highly toxic chemical warfare agents that can cause death -- VX, a reactive nerve agent and GB, or Sarin, a non-reactive nerve agent.
"Right before (competitors) go into the toxic environment, they must be medically cleared," Castro said. "They go into (the training scenario) and encounter amounts (of VX and GB) that if you do not have protection, you can potentially die because of the exposure."
Day four brought a whole new set of obstacles for the CBRN Warrior teams in the form of a Land Navigation site with six stations, set up in Training Area 401.
Teams had to react to a mock chemical attack, treat a nerve agent casualty and complete a 9-line Medevac request successfully evacuating the casualty to the designated landing zone; survey and mark a known chemically contaminated site and submit two separate CBRN reports; clear, disassemble and reassemble a M9 Pistol, M4 Rifle or M249 Squad Automatic Weapon; decontaminate a vehicle and equipment; react to unexploded ordnance as well as survey and sample the area, and conduct a radiological survey.
Only 26 of the 27 teams continued into the last day of the competition, where teams completed a reflexive fire scenario. The objective was to secure and evacuate a casualty to safety while covering each other against enemy fire. Once teams were evaluated on the reflexive fire scenario, they finished the week with a combative competition at Shea Gym.