RAYMOND M. DOWNEY SR. RESPONDER TRAINING FACILITY, NAVY ANNEX, STUMP NECK, Md. --
From the midst of a pile of dirt and rubble, a Marine emerges wearing an intimidating-looking gas mask and white chemical protective garment, and he is dragging a simulated casualty from a collapsed structure. Another Marine gazes through his fogged-up face plate and hears the cry of a victim trapped beneath the debris. He swings his heavy hammer, trying to clear a lifesaving path.
Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force responds to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield incidents like this, yet CBIRF Marines and sailors are the only battalion of active-duty service members who train in CBRNE consequence management on a day-to-day basis, which is what II MEF Commanding General Lt. Gen. Dennis Hejlik came here to learn about.
“CBIRF is definitely a national asset,” Hejlik said.
Hejlik hails from the enlisted ranks, serving from 1968-1972, at which point he received his commission through the Platoon Leader’s Course. Among his assignments, Hejlik served as the first commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience in specialized units. Lt. Col. Michael Rohlfs, executive officer, CBIRF, said Hejlik’s visit was a great opportunity to show what CBIRF does on a daily basis.
“The best way to show what CBIRF does is to show the equipment and Marines in action,” Rohlfs said. “It gave the commanding general the opportunity to ask questions to our youngest Marines, the ones who are actually executing CBIRF’s mission.”
With CBIRF conducting CBRNE consequence management, a mission different from that of typical Marine Corps units, II MEF Sgt.Maj. Ronald Himsworth said America needs CBIRF Marines and sailors.
“It puts the Marine Corps at the front lines in American domestic issues,” said II MEF Sgt.Maj. Ronald Himsworth. “(CBIRF Marines) are the unsung heroes for a quick response to any national emergency that may happen.”
When directed, CBIRF can forward-deploy and respond to a CBRNE terrorist incident in order to assist local, state or federal agencies and designated combatant commanders in the conduct of consequence management operations.
CBIRF has several functions, including agent detection and identification, casualty search and rescue operations, personnel decontamination, and emergency medical care and stabilization of victims in a contaminated environment, all of which are skills CBIRF Marines and sailors use to save lives in the event of a catastrophe.
“America needs CBIRF just like a town needs a police force. In case something happens, they can respond and take care of it,” Sgt. Anthony Roess, platoon guide, CBIRF, Company B, Extractor Platoon.
Here, CBIRF Marines and sailors complete a three-week training course including practical applications and curriculum in Hazardous Materials, emergency life-saving skills, and the incident command system.
“The training facility is absolutely superb. It integrates everyone, it’s run by Marines, and this facility also brings a lot of realism to the training conducted here,” Himsworth said. “When you meet the Marines and sailors, you realize America’s in good hands.”
Back at the collapsed structure, the Marine frantically claws at the rubble covering the screaming casualty, grabs the victim by the hand and pulls him to safety.