1/14/2014 -- CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - As dense, white smoke wafted into the air and filled the small concrete chamber, 10 Marines broke the seals of their gas masks.
The Marines huddled in the gas chamber were part of a larger, 80-person group conducting their annual training with Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 7, 2014. This training is intended to prepare Marines for potential threats against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear exposure while responding to combat or humanitarian missions around the globe.
“We make sure Marines have the knowledge to use in their Mission Oriented Protective Posture suits, survive, and possibly decontaminate themselves,” said Cpl. Cavin S. Sanders, a CBRN defense specialist with CLR-17, 1st MLG. “These skills are very important in an expeditionary environment, because when it comes to defending against chemical attacks, mistakes can be fatal.”
The Marines were required to complete several hours of classes before hiking to the gas chamber where they donned their required gear. Ten Marines at a time entered the small, dark and smoke-filled room to perform drills to ensure their gas masks and MOPP suits were functioning properly. Finally, the Marines exited the chamber and helped each other decontaminate themselves and their gear, completing the training.
The array of lessons taught included conducting reconnaissance and identifying potential CBRN threats, operating equipment designed to protect personnel from chemical threats, and decontamination to ensure they take necessary steps to ensure Marines do not become CBRN casualties.
“Attention to detail is very important,” said Sanders, a native of Miami. “We make sure Marines know the fundamentals and know how to do them well. The most challenging aspect of my job is emphasizing the importance of doing everything correctly.”
For some Marines, the tear gas caused burning sensations, tears, coughing and nasal discharge. However, a few minutes of discomfort was a small price to pay for obtaining valuable skills that could save their lives.
“The reason we do this is so that Marines can build confidence in their gear,” said Lance Cpl. Victor J. Jimenez Jr., a CBRN defense specialist with CLR-17, 1st MLG. The San Antonio native ensures Marines have the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully survive CBRN exposure.