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    Chemical Soldiers’ Responses Tested

    Standing in the Light

    Photo By Cpl. Matthew Atwood | U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 414th Chemical Company out of Orangeburg, South...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Matthew Atwood 

    207th Public Affairs Detachment

    BUTLERVILLE, Ind. -- Hours after the sun set on the disaster zone training site at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC) in Butlerville, Indiana, smoke is still swirling through the black midnight sky. A three-Soldier team from the U.S. Army Reserve suits up in mission oriented protective posture (MOPP) gear to survey a trailer park for radioactive leakage and locate casualties.
    The survey site for the 414th Chemical Company from Orangeburg, South Carolina, is part of the U.S. Army’s multi-component training exercise, Guardian Response 17, where nearly 4,100 Active Duty, National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers from across the country validate their response capabilities in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) catastrophe as part of the U.S. Army’s Defense Support of Civilian Authorities (DSCA) mission.
    “Night operations are critical for the training because, in real-life scenarios, searches for casualties will continue until every person is accounted for,” said Sgt. Catherine Watkins, a CBRN specialist and team leader for the 414th Chem. Co. from Charlotte, North Carolina.
    The Soldiers of the 414th Chem. Co. evaluate the area and extract casualties to a safe zone for decontamination and to be treated for their injuries.
    “Our mission here is to find the source of the radiological contamination, and get people out before it further risks their health,” said Spc. Nathaniel Spill, CBRN specialist from Savanna, Georgia, and survey team member for the 414th Chem. Co. “After careful evaluation of the disaster scene, we then focus our efforts on casualty collection to get the victims to the decontamination center as quick as possible.”
    During the survey exercise, two Soldiers from a medical detachment provide extra sets of hands for the 414th Chem. Co team to assess and transfer the casualties. The additional help keeps the survey mission as a top priority for the CBRN specialists and ensures the mission is properly completed.
    “Safety is vital to our mission, as we know that creating additional casualties to the scene only prolongs our ability to complete the mission,” said Watkins. “The medics keep their focus on the casualties, which allows us to maintain attention to the survey.”
    During the survey and casualty collection process, the team was called via their handheld radio to assist the decontamination center in helping a sudden influx of live, role-player casualties. There the casualties were reassured they would receive the assistance they sought after they were decontaminated.
    After nearly 45 minutes at the decontamination center, Watkins and her team returned to the trailer park to finish their original mission.
    According to 2nd Lt. Grant Gillmore, the observer coach/trainer for the survey exercise and Fayetteville, North Carolina, resident, the teams are only allowed to be in the “hot zone” for 90 minutes at a time. During a real-life scenario, Soldiers operating in a contamination zone must be switched out periodically to avoid unnecessary exposure to contaminants, he added.
    The time spent at the decontamination center chipped away at the Soldiers’ overall time in the hot zone, leaving the team with only about 20 minutes to complete their survey.
    In a rush for time, the team made its way back to the survey area and continued gathering casualties.
    “This training is far better than what we typically do back at the unit,” said Watkins. “In a real-life scenario, we would be the first ones on site and it is important for us to do our jobs well to get people out of there as quickly as possible.”
    After returning to the decontamination center, the team conducted their own decontamination and wrapped up the nearly two hour process. Their mission was one of the last remaining evaluations for Guardian Response 17. The evaluation gives their higher command an indication in how well their unit is prepared for dealing with a real life disaster area.



    Date Taken: 05.10.2017
    Date Posted: 05.11.2017 14:36
    Story ID: 233515
    Location: BUTLERVILLE, IN, US 
    Hometown: ORANGEBURG, SC, US

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