By Sgt. Marcus Fichtl, 8th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sustainment CommandSeptember 22, 2012
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Sixty years of chemical and biological decontamination doctrine may soon change as the 71st Chemical Company, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command along with chemical elements from around U.S. Army Pacific and Marines from Marine Corps Base Hawaii fielded new decontamination equipment and technologies designed for all services at Area X-Ray, here, Aug. 6 to Sep. 12.
The Soldiers tested the Hazard Mitigation, Material, Equipment Restoration or HAMMER family of systems. Comprised of multiple new technologies, the systems are ultimately designed to drastically reduce the time it takes to decontaminate equipment at the team level and beyond. To accomplish this HAMMER uses triage, minimizes the use of water, and focuses on simplicity of use.
According to Sgt. Maj. Simeon Nedlic, USARPAC, CBRNE and Protection Sergeant Major there are three basic suites to the HAMMER program, each represents three levels of decontamination mitigation.
The first suite is the Mobile on the Move bag or MOM that anyone in any job can put in their vehicle and decontaminate themselves. The second suite is the Mobile Support Suite designed for internal decontamination at a battalion level and the last suite is the Large Scale Stationary Suite -- a more robust suite issued at a chemical company level to help augment battalions and larger scale decontamination missions.
One of the key elements of HAMMER is the yellow misted disclosure spray. A backpack based system powered by AA batteries that operates with the simple press of a button.
"If you suspect your vehicle is hit with any kind of contamination, you spray your vehicle with the disclosure spray and your vehicle will change color, it will change to red where it's contaminated," said Nedlic. "After you spot the contamination, you can now basically just cut off where the contamination is and quickly put yourself back into the fight."
While the reaction process may need high level chemistry and biology to understand, the effects and application do not. Nedlic attributes this to the demand the warfighters, like those from 71st Chem. have placed on the military technological development.
"It's huge to modernize doctrine, but to be a part of it is even better," said 1st Lt. Chris Parker, decontamination platoon leader, 71st Chem. Co. "We're making sure it makes sense and not only from a warfighter position but from a CBRNE Soldier position."
Parkers said they consistently ask questions like "is this going to be quicker," or "can we incorporate this into what we already do."
How will HAMMER affect a large scale decontamination mission?
Nedlic said the large scale decontamination mission the 71st Chem. currently trains for would require every vehicle regardless of level of contamination to go through a process that can take hours, but with HAMMER a triage station and the disclosure spray separates what is fully contaminated, partially contaminated or not contaminated turning time for vehicles off the front line from hours into minutes -- an incredibly vital advantage against asymmetrical warfare where the enemy can strike anywhere and resources like water, used to decontaminate, are dispersed across a large theater.
"Hours of time are chopped off using this technology, in my eyes it has a lot potential to change how we do decon, today," said Nedlic.
But while more easily said than done, Parker has noticed incredible gains after a tough learning curve.
"The first couple of weeks were slow but after we began figuring things out it's been nothing but a high speed push," said Parker.
The 71st Chemical Company will continue to train on the equipment for the next twelve months and will play a leading role in the coming years in shaping decontamination doctrine for the warfighter if the military implements HAMMER.