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Brig. Gen. Michael Dana (right), Director for Logistics, Headquarters North American Aerospace Defense Command and Director of Logistics and Engineering, Headquarters United States Northern Command, visited Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, March 23rd to gather information about what CBIRF Marines and sailors do on a daily basis. Pat Higgins (left), lead training instructor, showed Dana around the Raymond M. Downey Sr. Responder Training Facility, where he saw the collapsed structure CBIRF Marines and sailors use to train with.

Photo by Sgt. Leslie Palmer

NORTHCOM key leader gathers CBIRF information

23 Mar 2009 | Sgt. Leslie Palmer

In an effort to show what Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force Marines and sailors do on a daily basis, CBIRF key leaders hosted a brigadier general who was on a quest for knowledge about CBIRF.

Brig. Gen. Michael Dana, Director for Logistics, Headquarters North American Aerospace Defense Command and Director of Logistics and Engineering, Headquarters United States Northern Command, visited CBIRF, March 23rd, to see just what CBIRF Marines and sailors do on a daily basis.

Breaking away from a busy schedule, Dana said he discovered the personnel at CBIRF have a different mission from that of Marine Corps operational forces deploying to combat zones.

“Everything we do is focused on enabling our Marines and sailors to locate and extract victims in a contaminated or hazardous environment,” said Col. John Pollock, commanding officer, CBIRF.

Beginning with a command brief, Dana learned how a Marine or sailor is made into a CBIRF Marine or sailor. Much like recruit training, at CBIRF, education is a process that teaches Marines the basic concepts and then progresses towards more advanced principles.

First CBIRF Marines and sailors must complete the three-week CBIRF Basic Operations Course, where students learn myriad skills including basic search and extraction skills, decontamination techniques, and emergency life-saving skills. Then, CBIRF Marines and sailors take their training to a different venue for follow-on training to get themselves out of their comfort zones learning how to use the training they received around live agents.

“Canada is like our graduate school,” said Maj. Edward Bacon, training officer, Headquarters and Service Company, CBIRF. “The Marines and sailors go up to Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC) for a week and do some laboratory work and get comfortable around the agents under fume hoods.”

Dana also learned that CBIRF’s operations have gone through major changes over the years. 

“In the old days, we would go into the contaminated area and extract the casualties. We realized, we needed more information,” Bacon explained. “Identification and detection has been a big part of our focus for the past five years.”

The Identification and Detection Platoon (IDP) is vital to the battalion for many different reasons, Bacon explained. Most importantly, they are instrumental in force preservation.

“We have IDP to identify the hazard, so we can avoid it, and they can assist us in downgrading our personal protective equipment (PPE),” Bacon said.

Also, Dana learned that CBIRF’s search and extract teams are vital to CBIRF’s mission.

“They are trained to conduct and search an area, so they don’t miss anything…In the Oklahoma City Bombing, [emergency responders] found babies and remains stuck in the most peculiar places…normal people wouldn’t find these things just walking into a room for the first time,” Bacon told Dana. “Our Marines and sailors are trained to find those things through detailed searched. First the Marines and sailors do their primary searches and then their secondary searches. Every CBIRF Marine and sailor is given a class on heavy lifting and moving at CBOC, so if they do find anything in one of those peculiar places, the Marines and sailors can take care of it in most cases.”

The technical rescue platoon is versed in different skills like vehicle extrication and rope rescue.

“They (technical rescue Marines) make search and extraction easier,” Bacon explained.

The medical platoon, which is an indispensable component to CBIRF, helps make CBIRF’s capabilities unique, Bacon said.  

“What I have learned from my travels and experiences is that CBIRF has the only emergency responders who provide medical personnel in the [contaminated area],” Bacon explained.

After the command brief, Dana toured CBIRF’s training groups at Stump Neck, Md. The Raymond M. Downey Sr. Responder Training Facility is where CBIRF Marines and sailors begin their journey in becoming a part of the unit, learning what it takes to operate in a contaminated environment.

Viewing a trainer CBIRF Marines and sailors use to hone their skills in confined space rescue, Dana saw first-hand Marines and sailors at CBIRF have a unique mission. At CBIRF, Marines and sailors are emergency responders.

“They found their patient. Now, what they have to do is work their way back to where they made entry into the building,” said Pat Higgins, lead training instructor, CBIRF. “There’s another team down here, and they’re searching on the other side of the trainer. They’re trying to find their patient,” Higgins added.

Dana discovered Marines and sailors at CBIRF have a critical mission; which is to respond, when called upon, to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) incident.

“This is phenomenal,” Dana replied gazing at the trainer where he saw Marines extract their simulated casualty. “I am really impressed with the capabilities this unit has, and for the size of it, you guys do a lot more than I thought you did. The skill sets CBIRF Marines and sailors have make this a great unit,” Dana explained. 

In an effort to acquire information about what CBIRF Marines and sailors do for their country, Dana found that CBIRF Marines and sailors to be heavily engaged in a worthwhile mission.

“It’s a great unit,” said Dana.