News: Aerial Radiological Survey training conducted first time at JBLM in 20 years
Story by Sgt. Jacqueline Fennell
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – Turbulent winds, rain and cold weather didn’t stop them from executing the mission.
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosives (CBRNE) students, enrolled in a CBRNE Defense Course, conducted aerial and ground surveys of simulated contaminated areas on April 30 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. This type of training has not been conducted in the United States in the last 20 years.
After students boarded a Boeing CH-47D Chinook, their training mission was conducted to determine the origin of a contaminated area following a scenario of a nuclear bomb detonation. Students communicated with pilots and an aviation crew to assess the threat by measuring radiation levels using their equipment and teamwork.
John Guirell, the Chief of the Individual Training Branch who oversees the CBRNE School, takes pride in the unique services offered at the school.
According to Guirell, the highlight of the course was the opportunity for students to board a helicopter and engage in responding to a simulated real-world CBRNE attack.
“To the best of my knowledge it doesn’t happen anywhere else in the Army at the Forces Command (FORSCOM) or Installation Management Command Level (IMCOM),” added Guirell.
Regardless of the forces of nature blowing against them causing the helicopter to shake, students stood fearlessly on the edge of the loading ramp. They collected water samples measuring the levels of contamination as they hovered above American Lake at JBLM.
Guirell also mentioned that JBLM is one of the few non-training doctrine installations in the Army that has its own CBRNE school requiring reservations and accommodating an average annual enrollment of 39 thousand students with only 16 staff members for support.
“We have to be innovative and use resources available to us on this installation in order to make this happen,” said Guirell.
Sgt. 1st Class Romereo Paine, the CBRNE non-commissioned officer in charge of the school, helps make that innovation possible through the development of an operating procedure that incorporates flight time.
“The intent and purpose of the training is so that CBRNE students can be qualified at the NCO level and be ready to immediately respond to a real CBRNE attack while being prepared to implement the training in their respective commands,” said Paine.
Dressed in Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear, (protecting them from bio-hazards) students exit the Chinook as it landed on a hilltop. Once on the ground, they assessed the direction and wind speed to estimate the amount of time left to prevent further radioactive contamination.
They used special equipment to train detecting gamma radio waves in the area within a 10 minute timeline. This real life training exercise was a valuable experience for students.
“I’m excited to get up in the air because I learn more by doing hands on things like this and actual scenarios allow me to use my equipment,” said Pfc. Vanessa Valencia, a human resource specialist assigned to the 67th Military Police Company, adding that she intends to help her unit by teaching others while speaking from experience.
Commanders and their units react to mock drills and are expected to respond to an attack in a timely manner, said 1st Lt. David Young, platoon leader for the 542nd Support and Maintenance Company.
The fear of the unknown is a battle soldiers struggle with when responding to a CBRNE attack, said Young. He mentioned that he is ready to respond now that he has completed the course.
Confidence in knowing how to maneuver with their equipment helps conquer the battle against this fear, said one student regarding the level of instruction provided by their instructors.
“Everything is only a theory until you put it into practice,” said Paine about incorporating the use of flight time.
CBRNE students who complete the CBRN aerial radiological survey training at JBLM are better prepared to respond to a real radiological threat following their experience in the air.
This work, Aerial Radiological Survey training conducted first time at JBLM in 20 years, by SGT Jacqueline Fennell, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.