News: CBRN Marines prepare for deployment with 31st MEU
Story by Lance Cpl. Kasey Peacock
CAMP HANSEN, Japan - On a hot, humid day, the average person would consider drinking an ice-cold beverage by a pool, or spending a relaxing day indoors with the air conditioner on.
For chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialists assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force, a day like this is an excellent opportunity to better prepare themselves for future responses in any kind of environment, according to Staff Sgt. John C. Bettenhausen, the CBRN chief with the 31st MEU.
The Marines performed a reconnaissance fitness test at Camp Hansen May 24 in Level B chemical protective suits to prepare themselves for an upcoming deployment at sea.
“As first-responders, we never know what kind of environment we might be walking into,” said Bettenhausen. “We do our best to train as often as we can in various climates to stay constantly ready.”
The fitness test is designed to challenge the CBRN Marines with realistic crisis response scenarios, according to Lance Cpl. Aaron A. Mendoza, a CBRN defense specialist with Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF, currently assigned to the 31st MEU.
“The test begins with us walking a lap in the suit to simulate responding to a scene,” said Mendoza. “We then simulate evacuating a casualty away from the hazardous area and finish by containing a mock spill and securing that area.”
The challenges of the fitness test are increased while wearing the hazmat suits as the oxygen tanks have limited air, according to Lance Cpl. Ronald P. Cassidy, a CBRN defense specialist with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF, currently assigned to the 31st MEU.
“Not only are we practicing to be proficient, but also to be efficient,” said Cassidy. “We are always striving to improve. The more we get done on our limited air the better. It is evident with all the training we have been doing that we are getting more proficient and working faster and better as a team.”
Along with the fitness test, the Marines have been preparing on a weekly basis for their upcoming deployment by attending and teaching CBRN-related classes and training with other units, according to Bettenhausen.
“We teach the Marines a variety of intensive classes directly related to being a CBRN specialist and a first-responder,” said Bettenhausen. “Along with the classes pertaining to our job, we have done training with explosive ordnance disposal Marines to learn about various unknown liquids and bomb-defusing procedures.”
Marines with CBRN units across the major subordinate commands of III MEF come together for six-month rotational deployments with the 31st MEU, according to Bettenhausen.
“Each cycle, we rotate a new group of 15 guys,” said Bettenhausen. “It can be challenging at first, but after a week everyone seems to get synchronized and becomes prepared to accomplish our mission as first-responders with the 31st MEU.”