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NEWS | Aug. 13, 2018

Army Reserve Soldiers conduct decontamination operations with 1st Armored Division

By Sgt. 1st Class Brent Powell 76th Operational Response Command

Today’s Army Reserve, America’s premier fighting force of choice, has numerous specialized units that bring a host of unique equipment as well as trained and highly skilled Soldiers to the modern battlefield to face any threat in any terrain or conditions. When those threats involve chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear elements, the Army Reserve stands ready to respond.

To help prepare warriors for such an attack, more than 50 Army Reserve Soldiers from the 379th Chemical Company, 472nd Chemical Battalion, 209th Regional Support Group, 76th Operational Response Command, spent the past couple of days here conducting a series of decontamination operations with active duty Army Soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

“Our mission here was to provide decontamination support to the 1st Armored Division in order to enhance their skills, increase their mission readiness and their understanding of what we do,” said Capt. Andrew Deal, company commander of the 379th Chem. Co., 472nd Chem. Bn. “The goal was to do that by providing opportunities to engage in potential chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) hazard operations.” 

The Soldiers of the 379th Chem. Co, wasted little time in integrating into the 1st Armored Divisions’s training exercise, and within 24 hours of arriving at the training area, they were called into action.

“We received notification that a unit had been hit with a nerve agent and we were given their location,” said Deal. “After conducting a reconnaissance of the area and going through our troop leading procedures, we began setting up to conduct the decon to process vehicles and troops.”

The company established their decontamination site by setting up three vehicle decontamination lanes and two personnel decontamination areas. The vehicle lanes allowed Stryker vehicles to drive in, be sprayed down with water to rid them of any possible chemical contaminants, and then drive out to return to the battle. Soldiers who may have been exposed to the hazardous agents were led to a decon area where they were able to quickly exchange their potentially contaminated Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear for new gear. The entire process is designed to allow the Soldiers to return to the fight as quickly as possible.

Within a few hours, the team had decontaminated 12 Stryker vehicles and had processed more than 60 Soldiers through the decon procedures.

“I think this training is really important for these Soldiers because should this happen in real-life they would be under a lot of stress and panic,” said Deal. “That’s why it’s very important to train them on the proper decon procedures now so they will have that training to reflect back on and keep their heads on straight. This also gets us out of our comfort zone by allowing us to work with Soldiers who aren’t familiar with decon procedures, and gives us more time to train on the proper techniques to hone our skills and improve.”

Shortly after sunrise on day two the Soldiers of the 379th Chem. Co. were once again gearing up and preparing to decon more vehicles and personnel. By 6 a.m. they had established two vehicle decon lanes, two personnel decon areas and were busy conducting decon procedures for Stryker vehicles and Soldiers. Within a matter of hours the unit had provided decontamination to 12 Stryker vehicles and more than 40 personnel.

“Our mission has been going pretty smooth,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Montoya, platoon sergeant and native of Chicago, Illinois, assigned to 4th Platoon, 379th Chem. Co, 472nd Chem. Bn. “The Soldiers motivation is high and they are really focused on this mission. They are all professionals and they have a good understanding of what we are here to do, and that is cross-train and represent the Army Reserve.”

One of the Soldiers going through the decon training was Pfc. Andrew Johnson, a medic and native of Mililani, Hawaii assigned to the 501st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. “It’s been awhile since we’ve done any CBRN training so it’s definitely good to have this opportunity,” he said “I have a lot of respect for the Soldiers out here doing this wearing full MOPP suits in 100 degree temperatures.”

Despite the persistent heat and long hours, the Soldiers accomplished their mission. “Overall this exercise has been a success as far as our integration and training with the Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division,” said Deal. “Our Soldiers have done everything they could here to not only conduct a decon operation, but also cross-train the active duty Soldiers the best they could with the time they were given.” 

With the two-day mission now behind them, Deal looks to the future and is hopeful the Army Reserve will do more of this type of training. “I think we should absolutely do more of this multi-component CBRN training in the future,” he said. “CBRN is a real world threat in today’s environment and we have to be trained and ready to encounter that threat.”

Other Soldiers of the unit seemed to agree.

“I think this is definitely a step in the right direction for combat arms units to utilize us directly in their training,” said Montoya. “This helps enforce the importance of this type of training and showcases what we do. Hopefully this unit will have us back out here again to do more of this.”