News: 21st Chemical Company uses live sources for radiological training
Story by Sgt. Jacqueline Fennell
RICHLAND, Wash. – As the temperatures climbed, soldiers assigned to the 21st Chemical Company, stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., suited in their Mission Oriented Protective Posture level four gear, reacted to a simulated detonation of a radiological explosive device in support of local civil authorities as part of their training mission May 8.
The wreckage of a mangled vehicle represented ground zero and was surrounded by other debris on an area of dusty land concentrated with low-level doses of radioactive material provided by the Radiological Emergency Preparedness Section of the U. S. Department of Energy.
This unique training mission was staged in a rehearsal area outside of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the Hammer Training and Education Center, which provided the evaluation and instruction for the response.
This type of Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear training is part of a larger response mission, called “Task Force Red Dragon”, which is designed to test the capabilities of chemical equipment by conducting life saving missions for “Vibrant Response” validation exercises in preparation for Department of Homeland Security readiness.
“This is the first time these soldiers have used a live radiological source, it builds their trust and confidence in their techniques, equipment and protective ensembles,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Kraus, 2nd Chemical Battalion. “With the support of safety and civil officials out here, they can respond with more speed and wisdom if we ever actually have to respond in the homeland.”
This training mission incorporated a joint task force with civil authorities consisting of two teams.
A reconnaissance and response team first identified the isotope emitted and measured its dosage level by surveying the land using their sophisticated instruments. They marked off the area, once the high and low areas were established. The mass casualty team moved in to set up stations to decontaminate life and property.
Michelle Anderson-Moore, the radiation safety officer, who works for the Department of Health in the state of Washington, was the lead civil authority in charge of the training mission. She ensured the levels of radiation were safe for soldiers while conducting their training.
Anderson-Moore said the DOE provided radiological sources that would most commonly be used by a terrorist to create real-life readings.
Ninety minutes were given to execute their mission. Kevin Togami, who has 27 years of experience in the industry, evaluated their level of response.
“Both groups did a really great job and the command gave them a good brief,” said Togami. “Both groups, for the first time ever, did a really nice job on how they integrated information and accomplished the same goal.”
Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Christopher Cox, 2nd Chemical Battalion, said this type of training is scheduled to move to a brigade level of proficiency in August and added he has full confidence in his soldiers.
“They are the best equipped and best trained soldiers to execute this mission,” said Cox.
The cooperation between military and civilian role players set the stage for success.
“Americans helping Americans is the most important principle here,” said Cox. “The people we would help are our neighbors, our friends and our family.”
Now that training is underway, the 21st Chemical Company is more prepared to take on their role in an effort with local authorities and fellow members in the Defense CBRN Response Force mission.