News: Crippling agents: Soldiers gain CBRN knowledge
Story by Sgt. Daniel Schroeder
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Scratching his neck while tears stream down his face, a Soldier bends over gasping for air as his lungs start to burn. He stumbles outside, still feeling the effects of an airborne chemical agent.
To prepare Soldiers for exposure to chemical agents, Soldiers can attend the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense class. The class teaches Soldiers on the effects, symptoms, types of chemical agents, and how to protect and detect chemical or biological agents.
“A CBRN weapon is the only strategic weapon that can kill millions with a little amount,” said Sgt. 1st Class Romereo Paine, CBRN noncommissioned officer, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security for I Corps. “The threat of a CBRN attack is always there.”
Soldiers learn more about what chemical agents exist, what each is capable of and how to protect against the toxins.
“The class trains unit nuclear, biological, chemical NCOs on procedures for detecting and protecting in a CBRN environment,” said Paine, a native of Augusta, Ga. “Soldiers learn how to conduct their daily tasks in a contaminated environment.”
Soldiers learned how to operate in a contaminated environment by identifying the different types of chemical agents and how they affect the body.
Chemical agents include choking, nerve, blood and blister. These agents can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled or ingested and can cause skin rashes to sporadic muscle movements to death.
According to Paine, chemical and biological weapons can create effects that can last a lifetime. The toxins in the agents damage the tissue and organs inside the body.
“The class raised my awareness about what CBRN really is,” said Spc. Jennifer Patzke, a Retrans Team 1 NCO with 63rd Network Support Company. “I didn’t know it was such a threat.”
After learning about the agents, Soldiers studied various protection gear and equipment to remain safe from chemical attacks.
The most basic form of protection is the protective mask and mission-oriented protective posture gear. After donning the protective gear, a Soldier may operate in a contaminated environment for up to 48 hours.
Another form of protection from a CBRN attack is detecting the chemical agents before encountering it. Soldiers learn how to operate CBRN detection equipment such as an AN/VDR-2 Radiac Set and a Joint Chemical Agent Detector M4A1 during the class in order to train their units.
The class highlighted the dangers of a CBRN attack by presenting examples from the world wars, Iraq, and the attack in Syria last summer.
For more than a decade, training focused on IEDs, snipers and indirect fire.
According to Sgt. 1st Class Evert Sterling, CBRN staff NCO of Operations, I Corps, the scope of threats against the United States has expanded as the Army transitions from counterinsurgency operations to nation-on-nation conflicts.
“We are training for traditional threats like force-on-force instead of what we were fighting in Afghanistan,” said Sgt. Karl Schulz, CBRN NCO, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps. “Traditional threats include CBRN threats.”
Traditional nation-on-nation threats may include fear of aerial attacks, tanks, and chemical warfare.
“There is always a chance the enemy can use CBRN weapons,” said Sterling, a native of Bronx, N.Y. “The impact on U.S. forces of a CBRN attack from a force-on-force or conventional fighting force is greater than the impact from an insurgent CBRN attack.”
The CBRN Defense class provides Soldiers with knowledge to train their unit in CBRN-related scenarios to become proficient in daily tasks while in a contaminated environment.
“The CBRN Defense class is full of tremendously useful knowledge,” stated Schulz, a Brookfield, Wis. native. “The content of the class should be disseminated in small doses throughout the year by the CBRN NCO.”
“Without having a Soldier who has been through the course, the knowledge of CBRN in a unit is slim to none,” Paine said. “[Army Regulation] 350-1 states CBRN will be conducted in all aspects of training. These are skills that save lives.”