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Lt.Gen. Richard Natonski, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command (right), talks with Sgt. Peter Towle, technical rescue technician, Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, (left). During Natonski’s visit, Towle showed him how to stabilize a structure using shoring.

Photo by Sgt. Leslie Palmer

MARFORCOM CO visits CBIRF, gets inside look at CBIRF’s mission

9 Dec 2008 | Sgt. Leslie Palmer

Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, typically hosts a lot of visitors. On Dec. 9 Lt.Gen. Richard Natonski, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command, visited and he got an inside look at what CBIRF Marines and sailors do on a day-to-day basis.

Touring the Raymond M. Downey Sr. Responder Training Facility at Navy Annex Stump Neck, Md., Natonski said he got a better perspective on CBIRF's mission, as he toured the facility with the lead instructor from CBIRF’s Basic Operations Course, retired Marine Master Sgt. Pat Higgins.

Entering the training facility, Natonski first saw search markings used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. CBIRF Marines and sailors also use the markings when entering collapsed structures.

“When a team goes into a structure, they’ll place an initial slash with their team number on the left hand side,” Higgins explained. “They’ll conduct the search, and when they come out, they’ll complete the “x” and put the time and date it was completed.”

Natonski learned about a variety of topics CBIRF Marines and sailors train on including FEMA markings, right-handed search patterns, and decontamination techniques. CBIRF is the nation’s oldest chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive response force, and according to one MARFORCOM staff member, CBIRF Marines and sailors bring a lot of experience to the CBRNE field.

“When it comes to CBIRF, Americans need to know that the Marine Corps has an even greater capability than they could imagine; that we can do so many things, and this is just one of the many great things we do,” said Col. James Sorg, logistics, MARFORCOM.

During the visit, Natonski learned about the CBIRF Basic Operations Course, which is a three-week training evolution where Marines and sailors assigned to CBIRF learn about a variety of topics including emergency medical techniques, decontamination skills, and hazardous materials operations.

“It opened my eyes to the vast array of capabilities CBIRF has. It’s not just decontamination. I’m really astounded at the extensive training Marines and sailors at CBIRF get, when they’re assigned to a team,” Natonski said.

Remembering back to the anthrax attacks on Capital Hill in 2001, Natonski said CBIRF Marines and sailors are the best at what they do.

“I don’t think there’s any other capability like CBIRF in the entire country. As we saw in the Capital during the anthrax attacks, no one does it better than CBIRF Marines and sailors,” Natonski said.

Natonski spent tours in Iraq, adding to his experience in combat. Natonski said CBIRF is vital to homeland security, adding a capability only the Marine Corps can provide.

“I remember walking into chemical factories in Fallujah, Iraq, and I think in today’s world, we could see a potential chemical or biological attack by our enemies, and we have to be able to respond to something like that,” Natonski said. “No one can respond better than CBIRF.”