LANDOVER, MD --
Marines and sailors with Company B, Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, sharpened their skills during a training exercise Feb. 28, at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in Landover, Md.
During the training, service members enhanced their emergency lifesaving skills and decontamination and extraction techniques, in preparation for a real-world chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive incident.
The transit authority and CBIRF worked closely to ensure the scenarios resembled lifelike events, with special attention given to simulated casualties. Because of this, the training was like none CBIRF has done.
“It’s no longer an average operation for CBIRF,” said Chief Warrant Officer Andrew Hilliard, unit training manager for Headquarters and Service Company, CBIRF. “These casualties are actually schooled on what their signs and symptoms are and how they’re supposed to act. We put some mild rouge on them to make them (appear blue), and we gave them anti-acid tablets so they would foam at the mouth. Some had shortness of breath, some couldn’t walk and others were weak, which indicates a family of possible chemical or biological agents.”
Casualties were strategically placed in the Metro tunnel, simulating a bomb explosion. Then, Marines and sailors set up a decontamination line and medical stability tent outside the tunnel. Next, the Marines extracted the casualties from the tunnel and gave the wounded medical care in the contaminated area as needed. The simulated victims were then transported to the decontamination line and medical stability tent for follow-on care.
“It took them a long time to get me out (of the tunnel),” said Josh Dale, a simulated casualty during the operation. “They did a good job. They put me on a (stretcher), brought me out to (a multi-purpose vehicle), and got me to the decontamination line quickly. Then, I got evaluated by the medical staff. It ran pretty smoothly.”
CBIRF is self-sustainable during a CBRNE incident, equipped with many entities including technical rescue, decontamination and advanced medical care. To use CBIRF to its full capacity, training must be constant.
“We have to be able to do our job in a minute’s notice, because we never know when we’re going to get the call,” said Cpl. Shaneil Mitchell, a flash heater operator from Company B. “We have to do a lot of training to stay on our toes.”
CBIRF has a unique mission focusing on saving lives during a CBRNE incident, Hilliard said. They extract casualties from incident sites and transport them to safety, where they can get decontaminated and receive follow-on medical care. So, Marines and sailors with the unit must know how to operate in a contaminated environment, while wearing their personal protective equipment.