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Marines train to handle hazardous materials

4 Sep 2013 | Lance Cpl. David Hersey

CAMP KINSER, Okinawa - During the training scenario, Marines dressed in sealed protective suits step into the tent, testing the smoke-filled air for toxins with a handheld sensor. Once the readings display it is safe to proceed, they step farther into the structure and approach the hazardous material.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense teams with III Marine Expeditionary Force completed a contamination response drill Aug. 19-23 as part of a weeklong hazardous-material training exercise.

The three teams spent the week building proficiency and confidence in their hazardous-material-handling capabilities through classroom and practical-application training.

“Our mission is to train Marines who don’t know how to do these things and make sure they have the knowledge and skills necessary to work effectively in the field should they encounter such scenarios,” said Chief Warrant Officer Paul T. Pritchard, a CBRN defense officer with Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF. “By gathering together and sharing what we know, we’re better able to equip our Marines with the (necessary knowledge).”

During the exercise, the Marines practiced investigating a contaminated site, contained hazardous materials, extracted simulated casualties and secured a mock contaminated site.
“Our work is very open-ended,” said Cpl. Caitlin M. Carmella, a CBRN defense specialist with CLR-37. “This means that there can be (many) ways to do one thing. The experienced Marines have shown us the ways they’ve found work, so we don’t have to learn (exclusively) through trial and error.”

A month of planning and preparation was put into arranging the training, according to Staff Sgt. Bradley A. Mowrey, a CBRN defense specialist with CLR-37. The units made the scenarios as realistic as possible to ensure the Marines got the most out of the training.

“We gathered all of these Marines under one roof to share the wealth of knowledge they have,” said Mowrey. “This gives the Marines more to work with and makes it easier to establish and standardize methods of tactics, techniques and procedures for handling these kinds of situations.”

In addition to providing the Marines with valuable knowledge and experience, the exercise also helped identify areas the Marines need to improve, as well as highlight the challenges they will face when executing their job, according to Pritchard.

“The protective suits the Marines wear add at least 20 degrees to the ambient temperature,” said Pritchard. “We plan to do exercises to help adapt to the heat and other elements to get familiarized with the suits, further decreasing the chances of heat casualties.”
The Marines returned to their units with their knowledge enriched and experience gained to further aid them in completing their mission, according to Carmella.

“The training was incredibly effective,” said Carmella. “It helped familiarize the members of the units should we ever need to form a joint unit in the field while also providing new information to help us stay current on procedures and new techniques.”

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