News: US Forces train to repel volatile solvent attack
Story by Sgt. Eric-James Estrada
FORT POLK, La. – Paratroopers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division received valuable real-world chemical threat training while at the Joint Readiness Training Center April 21, 2014.
The Spartan Brigade Paratroopers received a surprise attack from the opposition forces at JRTC when an attempt was made to attack the brigade’s tactical operations center (TOC) using CS gas, which is an intense riot control agent.
“The enemy came up to the gate and they were using a couple of [stolen] gun trucks,” said Master Sgt. Israel Betanzos, the operations noncommissioned officer in charge for the Spartan Brigade.
As the enemy opened fire, they were immediately met with return fire from the Strykers of Company B, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and the entry control point (ECP) gun truck.
“As the firefight started I moved from the TOC to the berm and we started taking fire from that location. About two minutes into the firefight we got gassed. Our gun trucks had to pause [so occupants could] get their masks on,” said Betanzos.
The protective mask the paratroopers use is the M40A1. It allows a soldier to safely breathe in the event of some type of aerosol agent attack, to include any type of chemical and biological attack.
“The filter is based on micron levels,” said Sgt. 1st Class Darius Baca, the noncommissioned officer in charge of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) operations for the Spartan Brigade, “and anything small in the microns, it can filter out.”
Soldiers train to don their mask in less than ten seconds and continue to fight.
“We took out the entire enemy,” said Betanzos.
Due to the unique design of the ECP, the opposition forces additionally found themselves trapped with no way to retreat, which aided the Spartans in destroying the enemy.
The battle ended with all enemy forces destroyed and minimal casualties and wounded for the Spartan Brigade, to include Betanzos himself being wounded in the notional action.
Betanzos added that this specific type of training was a real eye opener.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve done any sort of actual [chemical] training like this,” said Betanzos. “[…] it’s opening everyone’s eyes to the reality that there are countries that are actually [operating like] this.”