News: Soldiers ‘de-slime’ during training
GLEN ARM, Md. - A specialized Maryland Army National Guard chemical unit honed their skills during a Sept. 8 training exercise at Gunpowder Military Reservation near Glen Arm, Md.
Soldiers from the 231st Chemical Company, based in Greenbelt, Md., built upon their successes from this summer’s two-week annual training by conducting a multi-faceted mission that included the unit’s reconnaissance and decontamination capabilities.
“Training exercises like these are especially relevant given the recent events in Syria and the continued threat here in the National Capital Region,” said 1st Lt. Kristofer Baumgartner, commander of the 231st Chemical Company. “It’s extremely important that we keep these skills sharp.”
The training scenario began with a report of the possible use of chemical weapons in a nearby village. The 231st then sprang into action developing a plan to enter the potentially contaminated area, determine if hazardous chemicals were there and decontaminate themselves and their equipment.
After inspecting their equipment including M40 and M42 Field Protective Masks and the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology protective outer garments, the unit set up an extensive, 5-station decontamination point away from the contaminated area.
“We don’t send in the reconnaissance platoon without the decontamination platoons set up to ‘de-slime’ them,” said 1st Lt. Stephen James, decontamination platoon leader.
The unit’s reconnaissance platoon soldiers put on their protective gear, posted security around the area and entered the village. Using both chemical and radiation detecting equipment, the platoon methodically covered every square foot of the site and determined that hazardous chemicals were present. The soldiers then took samples of the substances and moved to the decontamination stations to clean themselves and their equipment, which was considered “dirty” by virtue of operating in the vicinity of chemical weapons.
According to Sgt. Kenneth Powell, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with the 231st, the contaminated vehicles typically move through five stations where soldiers spray them down, scrub them and stage them for further transportation. The contaminated soldiers move to a separate area to remove their protective clothing and decontaminate their bodies.
The unit successfully completed the mission and returned to the armory, already planning future exercises to increase its efficiency and capabilities.
“I’m excited to expand our training locations and build our experience level” said Baumgartner. “We never know when or where we may be called for a real-world situation.”