News: Mass Decon exercise builds cohesion through training
Story by Spc. Samuel Northrup
FORT HOOD, Texas - The 2nd Chemical Battalion and the 581st Area Support Medical Company, 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 1st Medical Brigade conducted the mass casualty decontamination exercise March 25 at Fort Hood in preparation for any possible future attacks on U.S. soil. This is a scenario that is played out several times a year by the 2nd Chem. Bn.
Six units from Fort Hood and Fort Bragg, N.C., were brought together to build unit cohesion and to overcome any obstacles that may prevent them from accomplishing the mission, said Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Gomez, the assistant operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 2nd Chem. Bn., 48th Chem. Bde. These training exercises test the units’ capabilities to complete a mission together and their preparedness to respond to chemical attacks.
Simulated casualties were taken to the decontamination site where they were separated into two lines: ambulatory for those who could walk and non-ambulatory for those who were incapacitated.
When the casualties entered the decontamination tent, they undressed, washed away contaminates, were reinspected for contaminates, redressed and were sent to the onsite aid station for medical screening.
“We don’t want the first time we see each other to be on an actual mission,” Gomez said. “It’s a big thing to get us all together to train and work through any obstacles that we may encounter.”
For HHD, 2nd Chem. Bn., getting field training with their subordinate unit, the 21st Chemical Company, doesn’t happen often.
“This is only the second time that we have seen 21st Chem. Company in a training environment,” Gomez said. “They fall under 2nd Chem. Bn., but we rarely see and do training with them because they are located at Fort Bragg.”
The distance separating 21st Chem. Company from their battalion headquarters makes communication an important aspect of this training.
“We definitely need to be able to cross-talk and get together as a battalion even though we are over 1,000 miles away,” said 1st Lt. Eugene Ellis, a recon and surveillance platoon leader for 21st Chem. Company “Training at the battalion level under the battalion’s footprint is a definite benefit of this training.”
While role-players and mannequins were being decontaminated, the units were all learning from each others' experience.
“Cross-training between the different companies was a major intent of the mission,” Ellis said. “I like to be onsite to see 181st or 44th Chem. team’s training so I can get some new techniques or ideas from them. We learn from them and they learn from us.”
Aside from the chemical units, the 581st ASMC got a taste of the chemical action.
“We have ambulatory and non-ambulatory tents where we re-assess the casualties and treated them for any injuries they had,” said Capt. William Messick, the 581st ASMC commander. “If they required extensive further-on care, we would stabilize them for transport to a scenario-based Level III hospital, basically a local community hospital or a trauma center.”
Throughout the training, there was the added perspective of getting ready for a possible U.S.-based attack scenario.
“We need to keep in mind that we are Americans helping Americans,” Gomez said. “This is our country, and we are taking care of our own.”