News: 2nd Chemical Battalion uses live radioactive isotopes to keep homeland safe
Story by Sgt. Jacqueline Fennell
RICHLAND, Wash. – Battling the heat, while suited in their chemical gear, soldiers spent hours in the sun reacting to a training scenario involving a mock explosion resulting in the emission of radioactive isotopes while treating and decontaminating victims, May 15.
Sweating and drinking plenty of water, soldiers experienced a real time training mission in a bunker area located a little outside of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the Hazardous Materials Management and Emergency Response (HAMMER) Training and Education Center.
Soldiers conducted reconnaissance and survey missions with their specialized equipment to detect radiation over the exploded wreckage a mangled van, nearby parked cars and a chemical-lab grounded on an area of land that was concentrated with live beta-gamma isotopes.
The radioactive isotopes were provided for training purposes by the U.S. Department of Energy, Radiological Emergency Preparedness Section, who works with HAMMER.
Soldiers and some local volunteers in the community role-played, simulating injuries and symptoms that created a realistic set of conditions, giving soldiers the experience of what it would be like should they ever have to respond to an actual terrorist attack in the United States.
The 2nd Chemical Battalion, headquartered at Fort Hood, Texas, began their training, May 1, and are part of the Defense CBRN Response Force (DCRF), a task force that is responsible for any catastrophic Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear incident or attack that may occur in the continental U.S. and is overseen by the U.S. Army North Command.
“This is the first time these soldiers have used a live radiological source, it builds their trust and confidence with in their techniques, equipment and protective ensembles,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Kraus, Battalion Commander, 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.
A community member who volunteered her time in support of the validation exercises believes this mission is a productive measure.
“It was interesting to see the units come together, be organized as a team and work together,” said Tisha Keeney a volunteer who played a casualty and added she has confidence in their level of response.
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 and said she ensured the safety of all personnel while conducting their training.
In order to re-create live detection, four different types of active radiological isotopes were emitted during the training, and would be the most commonly used by a terrorist, added Anderson-Moore.
The design of this training exercise is to test the capabilities of the unit’s response to conduct life saving missions in preparation for Department of Homeland Security readiness.
“It will give the American people the comfort in knowing that there is a federal level response force that can respond anywhere in the U.S. if they are needed to save lives and mitigate pain and suffering,” said James Barkley, the Division Chief of U.S. Army North Command.
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.
By August, the battalion will be certified for any Vibrant Response mission in the U.S. with the cooperation between military and civilian role players that 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.”
Soldiers are able to return home with valuable knowledge and experiences they acquired.
Cpl. Brandel Diggs, 2nd Chemical Battalion said, “We can take back a lot of things we’ve learned and incorporate it all together because we learned strategies by taking part in each other’s jobs so now we have better cohesion. I feel more ready than we were before.”
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Carlos A. Torres, 2nd Chemical Battalion Platoon Leader, said, “It’s an honor to be part of a team that’s not only doing something to fight terrorism overseas, but in the homeland as well and I feel that we are ready for this mission.”
The 2nd Chemical Battalion has completed the validation for this mission, they are ready to take on their role in an effort with local authorities and fellow members in the Defense CBRN Response Force (DCRF) mission to help keep America safe.
This work, 2nd Chemical Battalion uses live radioactive isotopes to keep homeland safe, by SGT Jacqueline Fennell, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.