News: 262nd completes CBRN training in preparation for deployment
Story by Sgt. Angela Parady
BELFAST, Maine - As the United States continues its efforts to drawdown the troop presence in Afghanistan, National Guard engineering companies are still being deployed to help with base closure operations.
The Maine Army National Guard is scheduled to send the 262nd Engineer Company- horizontal to aid in such operations later this year. The company’s primary mission will be to help close down the current bases, and forward observation posts throughout the country.
In preparation for their mission, the 262nd has begun to work their way through a long list of training tasks that must be completed before they reach their mobilization station. During January drill period, they worked with members of the 11th Weapons Mass Destruction- Civil Support Team, to cover their Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense training.
Spc. Aric Ramirez, an engineer from Portland, is preparing for his first deployment. The 262nd is comprised mostly of heavy equipment operators, who will deconstruct buildings and existing structures, and build earth filled barriers to help remove some of the footprint American troops have left after more than a decade of fighting in Afghanistan.
“We are conducting CBRN training, the decontamination procedures, assembly and disassembly of our gas masks and our j-list suits, and preparation in case of a CBRN attack,” he said. “The masks are uncomfortable and the suits hot and miserable, but if they do their job, I can deal with it.”
The CST specializes in HAZMAT operations and potential WMD threats, said Staff Sgt. Keith Lilly, a reconnaissance sergeant from Dixmont.
“We spend a lot of our time going around to fire departments and local first responders to train them on HAZMAT procedures, and yet we still do all our own mandated training as well,” he said. “When we are asked to help ready our own troops for a deployment, we are more than willing to teach them what we know to better prepare them.”
More than 100 soldiers participated in the training. To create the best learning environment, the CST broke them into groups that went through different stations. If you succeeded at a station, you were considered a “go” and could move on to the next. If you missed something, you had to fix your errors before you could be validated for training.
“We are trying to teach them the different CBRN tasks they may need to know,” said Lilly. “Decontaminating of the individual and his equipment using the decontamination kits, reacting to chemical and biological hazards, marking CBRN contaminated areas, checking yourself for CBRN contamination, use and care of individual protective masks, how to detect chemical presence, and the use of the J-LIST suit, are all tasks we cover.”
Ramirez said he and his fellow soldiers are learning a lot in the trainings.
“Some tasks, that aren’t essential to our military occupational specialty, we don’t train on them as much,” he said. “It’s nice to have those who do specialize in them to prepare us for what we may face. These are things we need to know now, so we can learn them and get the kinks out. We don’t want to be asking basic questions when we get downrange.”