News: Caution! Hazardous training: EOD, HAZMAT suit up to save lives
Story by Spc. Cody Thompson
POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- A soldier in a green suit of armor cautiously moves toward an abandoned vehicle which moments prior was called in by the military police. The call said there was a suspicious package located inside of the vehicle. Using an explosive ordnance robot to open the doors, the soldier discovers and relays two pieces of information back to his teammates. The device is armed and the chemicals inside are deadly. No, this is not a scene from the movie the Hurt Locker, but rather a real-world training exercise at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., Nov. 17.
The Fort Bragg Fire and Emergency Services Department participated in a joint training exercise which focused on strengthening the communication and training procedures between MPs, Department of the Army Police, EOD, fire fighters, and hazardous materials team members.
The training began days before when United States Special Forces soldiers portrayed a live shooter situation that ended with an active search for both the shooter and escape vehicle, said Dean DeMark, the CBRNE program manager.
“After the shooter (role player) was shot and killed Monday, and an officer spotted the vehicle while on patrol. Upon further inspection he noticed a suspicious package,” said the Fayetteville native. “He then called the fire department, military police, emergency medical services and EOD. We are treating this as a real world incident because this exercise will let us evaluate our coordination between Pope (AFB) and the other agencies.”
One major aspect of the exercise was the EOD team’s disarmament of the suspicious device and the discovery of deadly chemicals.
“We conducted a remote reconnaissance with our robot and then had it remotely open the vehicle,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Brooks, an EOD technician with the 737th Ordnance Company, 192nd Ordnance Battalion. “Once we determined that the object had a partially burned fuse, we searched further and found a high amount of chlorine.”
“This portion of the training involved fully suited EOD technicians separating the hazardous materials at set points throughout a field adjacent to the Pope AFB’s flight line,” said the Grand Rapids, Minn. native. “Immediately afterward the EOD team called the HAZMAT team.”
The training was the first time some of the responding personnel were faced with this type of situation.
“For some guys it was the first time that they’ve worked with the other agencies,” said Demark. “It was important that EOD, HAZMAT and police understand each other’s training procedures.”
For one new Soldier, the training was about strengthening the communication link between emergency services.
“This helps our communication for real-life missions,” said Pfc. Christopher Scott, an EOD specialist with the 737th EOD Company. “It also helps us refine IED training skills,” added the Lompoc, Calif., native.
After EOD finished separating the materials, the HAZMAT team was assigned to verify, and package the dangerous materials.
“As the Fort Bragg HAZMAT team, we mediate what we have and distinguish between the chemicals,” said Wesley Ingram, a FES Hazmat captain at Fire Station Five and a Fayetteville, N.C., native.
During the HAZMAT portion of the training, one of the technicians opened a container which suddenly released a high concentration of placebo chemicals into the air.
“Communication is critical,” DeMark said. “You never open a sealed container. If you guys would have gone down, we would have to send in a rescue team!”
After debriefing the next HAZMAT team, they headed towards the car to complete the mission.
“We need to have better communication,” said Joel King, a Firefighter with DES. “This training was to refamiliarize us with the training and to integrate with Army EOD.”
As the training wrapped up, those participating received a call for a real situation involving all the departments. As the flashing lights turned on and the sirens wailed, the Fort Bragg Emergency Services sped to the scene to apply their newly acquired training.