JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – The wind was blowing hard enough to make the rain drops sting as they hit your skin and the tall thick grass made it difficult to walk but the soldiers didn’t even seem to notice.
Soldiers from the 61st Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Company, 23rd CBRN Battalion conducted a field training exercise on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Feb. 21-24, in order to remain ready to react to any chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear event.
One of the training scenarios during the FTX was the decontamination of two OH-58D(R) Kiowa Warrior helicopters and their crews.
“Even though we aren’t dealing with chemical threats downrange right now, chemical warfare is something that we have to be prepared for with everything that’s going on in the world right now,” said Spc. Edwin Joseph, a chemical operations specialist with the 61st CBRN Company. “We can’t just train the same things over and over again because there are so many different things that we might have to react to.”
This training began with a request for aircraft decontamination which put the 61st in motion. Soldiers first identified a landing zone suited for the mission and drove their equipment to the site, then set up markers to identify the LZ to the aircraft. Within an hour, the 61st had the site prepared. Two aircraft landed and the soldiers began decontaminating both aircraft and crew.
“We trained with the crew chiefs of the aircraft before we came out so the soldiers could identify special equipment and mechanical parts that needed to be avoided during the decontamination process,” said Staff Sgt. Christhian Floril, a squad leader with the 61st.
Soldiers decontaminated the helicopters by soaking them with a CBRN neutralizing liquid spraying out of high-pressure pumps. The pumps were mounted on the back of two M1078 Light Medium Tactical Vehicles. After the first rinse of the aircraft, the crew was instructed to exit the helicopter. The crew was then escorted to the personnel decontamination area where several 61st soldiers stood by to instruct them on self decontamination and equipment exchange.
“It’s very exciting when it comes to actually doing our job and sometimes people take us for granted until they actually need us,” said Floril.
The crew returned to the Kiowas once the decontamination process was complete. As the aircraft took off, the 61st began running their own personnel through the decontamination lanes.
“The soldiers did a great job,” said Floril. “They were highly motivated with just a few hours of sleep and the mission was successfully accomplished.”