RAYMOND M. DOWNEY SR. RESPONDER TRAINING FACILTIY, NAVY ANNEX, STUMP NECK, Md. --
The Marines begin their search armed only with two stretchers, some pry bars and shovels. Searching for victims through seemingly countless piles of rubble and mud, their job had just begun. Through the haze, their eyes fixed on the mission at hand, the Marines entered the demolished building. Using only minimal equipment and armed only with the knowledge of their new skills, they began their systematic search for survivors.
Marines on Marine Security Guard duty typically protect classified material and key personnel at American embassies, but in today’s day and age, terrorists use weapons that require responders to have a consequence management skill set. Learning from the instructors at the Raymond M. Downey Sr. Responder Training Facility, the Marines learned search and extract techniques, rope rescue, and how to lift and move heavy objects.
‘‘You never know what’s going to happen, especially at an embassy,” Staff Sgt. Imhotep Woodby said. ‘‘Going back to the Beirut embassy bombing and the 9⁄11 attacks, you never know when you’re going to have to use these things that you were taught and actually execute it, so you can pull victims out of a pile of rubble or tie a knot so you can repel from the embassy.”
While Marines stationed at Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force primarily train in chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive incident consequence management, instructors here train other Marines in different job fields.
‘‘An incident can happen anywhere. So, the more people who get this training the better, because you never know who is going to be there to respond,” Gunnery Sgt. Karri Boyd said.
‘‘Everyone’s claustrophobic, you just don’t know to what degree,” said Pat Higgins, chief instructor, chief instructor, Raymond M. Downey Responder Training Facility.
Throughout the course, a Marine’s eye protection is blacked out to simulate how he would feel searching for victims in the midst of smoke and dust in a collapsed structure.
‘‘If you have problems in small areas, then this course is going to be difficult for you, because there are a lot of small areas you have to go in to where your eye protection are blacked out, so you’re disoriented,” Woodby said.
Sharing the wealth, instructors here started teaching other Marines besides those stationed at CBIRF CBRNE consequence management, ensuring those who need the information got it.
‘‘Insurgents use IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) to blow buildings up in Iraq and Afghanistan. You see the same thing on embassy duty. You might have your fellow Marines or civilians in a collapsed structure, where you would have to go inside those tights places and be able to maneuver through dark spaces to save those Marines or civilians lives,” Woodby said.
While Marines stationed at CBIRF complete a three-week basic operations course, studying search and extract techniques, heavy moving and lifting, and hazardous materials handling procedures, MSG Marines complete a compressed course within their curriculum.
‘‘They need to be self-sufficient, when they are out at their posts...With the training they received here, they’re going to be the first ones on scene,” Higgins said.
Marines from Marine Expeditionary Units, the Marine Security Guard course, civilian emergency responders, and international military personnel complete CBRNE training here, yet CBIRF remains the only battalion with more than 400 active-duty Marines and sailors dedicated to CBRNE consequence management in the military.
‘‘Marines at CBIRF do it better than anyone else on the face of this planet,” Higgins said.