Feel the (C)BRN

By Spc. Sarah Martens | Exercise News Day | July 18, 2018

FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. — The 228th Combat Support Hospital (CSH) left San Antonio, Texas by bus to embark on their nearly 24-hour drive to Fort Hunter Liggett. Within a week from arrival on base, the unit’s three companies completed setup of their operating base and continued to power through toward their next trial.

As a part of the Global Medic exercise, 850 Soldiers at the Ward training area about an hour out from Fort Hunter Liggett conducts Lethal Warrior tasks training. Lethal Warrior is the initial phase of training and is focused on ensuring each Soldier is proficient in basic warrior tasks prior to moving on to collective tasks and the culminating exercise.

One aspect of this training is learning how to react to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats (CBRN). Several members of the 228th CSH are specifically tasked with handling these types of threats and are passing on that knowledge through classes and drills on properly wearing personal protective equipment. 

Pfc. Elyse Parker, a CBRN specialist with the 228th CSH and a student studying social work from Fort Hood, Texas, is one of the Soldiers teaching these classes. She stressed these classes are a necessary part of training. The hospital staff needs to be confident in their ability and equipment so they can continue to function even in a dangerous situation.

“In an event, they need to be prepared for anything,” said Parker. “The workers are the most important part.”

Members of the company entered a tent in groups of 40 to be tested on their ability to use their protective masks and chemical suits. They were given a maximum of eight minutes to properly put on all of their equipment. In case of an actual emergency, a Soldier would only have approximately nine seconds to put on their mask while closing their eyes and holding their breath, and ten minutes to put on the rest of their gear.

“We just want to make sure that our hospital staff is safe,” said Pfc. Rene Arsate, a CBRN specialist with the 228th CSH and sheriff’s deputy in Bear County, Texas. “We just want to know that we can protect ourselves, and we want to teach everybody so that they can know how to protect themselves.”

Although not a substitute for proper personal protective equipment, the 228th CSH has started using the highly mobile M8E1 Chemical Biological Protective Shelter (CBPS). This shelter is capable of protecting inhabitants for up to 12 to 24 hours in a CBRN environment as long as it is not punctured or damaged. 

The M8E1 CBPS is becoming a standard piece of equipment for U.S. Army combat support hospitals, in both active duty and reserve units. These tents are slowly being rolled out to replace the older models. The 228th CSH plans to have an improved shelter for their medic tent in time for next year’s annual training.

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