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Marines don level-b hazardous material suits to enter a contaminated building during Chemical, Biological, Radioactive and Nuclear Assessment and Consequence Management training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Dec. 17. The training required Marines to enter a building contaminated with black mold and identify other potentially dangerous substances within the structure. The Marines are CBRN defense specialists with CBRN platoon, Headquarters Company, Headquarters Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Photo by Sgt Rodrigues, Rebecca

Marines combat an unseen enemy

22 Dec 2015 | 1st Marine Logistics Group

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines train diligently every day to ensure their success in subduing very real and dangerous threats around the world, but even those of the most threatening nature cannot always be seen.

Marines with Headquarters Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted Chemical, Biological, Radioactive and Nuclear Assessment and Consequence Management training, Dec. 17, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Two teams, one of CBRN defense specialists, who are part of the ACM team, and one of Marines from throughout the regiment who are learning to perform as a Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Decontamination team, worked together to clear a contaminated building.

“Today's scenario requires the Headquarters Regiment team to conduct a specific set of actions while the CBRN ACM team provides support by accomplishing the actions for which they are uniquely equipped and trained,” said Master Sgt. Gabriel Reese, the CBRN operations chief and a Columbus, Georgia, native.

The CBRN ACM team was trained and equipped with level-b hazardous material suits to safely enter and assess the contaminated building. The level-b suit has a self-contained breathing apparatus that allows the Marines to breath clean air at all times regardless of the nature of the surrounding contaminants.

“A team of two went down and did reconnaissance on the building and got a situational awareness of the area,” said Cpl. Madeleine Pigg, a CBRN defense specialist with CBRN Platoon and a Kaysville, Utah, native. “Then a second team went down and collected samples of the substances they couldn’t identify.”

Any objects or casualties evacuated from the building, including every member of the CBRN ACM team, had to be decontaminated. The decontamination process involves a series of washing and testing for contaminants to make sure any dangerous materials stay confined to a restricted area.

“We are taking the RSD team trained by the regiment and having them actually decontaminate the CBRN ACM team,” said Gunnery Sgt. Robert Brown, the CBRN platoon officer in charge and a Carter Lake, Iowa, native. “The teams seem to be working really well together. If the ACM Marines tried to do it all themselves and decontaminate each other there would be a lot of cross contamination.”

The small CBRN ACM team keeps a narrow focus on being prepared to enter any type of toxic environment safely at any time, which allows the regiment to carry the weight of other traditional CBRN tasks such as teaching Marines about hazards they may be exposed to while deployed or facilitating annual gas chamber training.

“We do ACM training weekly,” said Brown. “We are constantly training to make sure we are proficient whenever we are needed.”

This focus is possible because of the support of the regiment and the Marines learning skills outside of their specific job field that could help keep their fellow Marines safe, according to Brown.

The structure of the CBRN ACM team and the RSD team is a year-long test which began in October 2015. The involvement of multiple levels of the command also makes the skills of the CBRN platoon more accessible to higher leadership.

“The CBRN ACM capability enables the commander to increase his situational awareness about CBRN threats on the battle field,” said Reese. “This enables better informed decisions to protect the force and posture it in a way that supports executing its mission essential task list under CBRN conditions.”

Leaders never know exactly what their Marines might face due to the expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps, but through challenging training and constant development they can be confident in their abilities to overcome any threat. Even those they cannot see.


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