STUMPNECK NAVY ANNEX, INDIAN HEAD, MD. -- Different military occupational specialties create a diverse Marine Corps with an array of responsibilities. The Marines with Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, get their military occupational specialty training by completing the CBIRF Basic Course here to fill an important role as emergency workers.
The course arms CBIRF Marines with skills to respond to a real-world chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive event while giving Marines the capability to save lives in those environments.
“CBIRF is a rescue unit,” said Duane Burridge, a CBC instructor. “We just do it in a contaminated environment.”
CBIRF moved from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., in 1996 to the nation’s capital region where it has more than 11 years of operational history including the unit’s response to the October 2001 anthrax and February 2004 ricin attacks at Capitol Hill.
Throughout the years, the CBC curriculum has evolved from a one-day class to two weeks packed with instruction on subjects ranging from hazardous material operations to Federal Emergency Management Agency search techniques. The CBC staff enhanced the training with technical rescue skills, life-saving techniques and chemical, biological and radiological decontamination.
“The first CBC was eight hours,” Burridge said. “It consisted of an introduction to (personal protective equipment), respiratory protection, conceptive operations and practical applications.”
The CBC schoolhouse took time to develop, and eventually became a diamond in the rough as a building filled with amenities surrounded by a collapsed structure used to train.
“When we took over the facility from the base, it had one electrical outlet,” said Burridge. “Between the civilian instructors and the Marines, we started spending more time out here building the place up. Our first annual budget was $3,000 and everything else we got by hook or by crook.”
After 11 years of work, the CBC schoolhouse is home to some useful equipment, such as a collapsed-structure trainer. Here Marines perform their CBC final practical application.
Instructors give the Marines simulated scenarios such as extracting government officials from a terrorist-bombed embassy. The Marines must extract victims and escort them to medical personnel or decontamination facilities.
“When the Marines come here to CBC, we don’t let them get away with minimal effort,” said retired Marine Master Sgt. Pat Higgins, CBC instructor. “They give maximum effort.”
“When Marines switch jobs going from working on the decontamination line to extracting casualties, the Marines’ CBC knowledge takes effect,” said Lance Cpl. Alec Welker, a training clerk with CBIRF’s Headquarters and Service Company. “(The CBC) gives you very good knowledge on what you’ll be doing with different effects of (nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical) agents and the equipment you’ll be using. Extracting is easy to teach but when Marines cross-train, the knowledge from CBC is most helpful.”
CBC training efforts have become an integral part of the unit’s operations.
“Sweat and equity- that’s what it is today,” Higgins said.