CBIRF steps outside of the box

18 Aug 2005 | Sgt. Christopher Reed

What is a Marine that can execute his job effectively? An asset.  What is a Marine that can execute the job of the warrior to his left and right?  Invaluable.  More than 250 Marines and Sailors recently became invaluable to the organization they serve, the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF).

During a weeklong training evolution beginning August 15th, the unit's service members departed from traditional CBIRF training for the first time since the battalion's creation in 1996. 

"This was the first time we stepped away from our traditional Initial Response Force (IRF) training in which each Marine and Sailor hones their skills in one particular CBIRF discipline," said 1st Lt. Danielle M. Robins, the executive officer for CBIRF's Reaction Force company. 

"Every Marine at CBIRF, regardless of their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) should have a basic understanding of the three CBIRF disciplines; casualty search and extract, decontamination, and reconnaissance," said Robins.

The driving force behind this type of training is to ensure the unit can maintain a flexible posture and thereby task organize to adapt and overcome the challenges of whatever mission they are called upon to accomplish, said Robins. 

One mission may require us to decontaminate an unexpectedly large number of casualties, perhaps in the hundreds or thousands, the San Dimas, Calif., native explained.  "If that level of assistance is needed on the decontamination line, 10 or 15 Marines will not be enough to support the mission.  Cross training Marines from other billets will allow us to augment the decontamination line with Marines that have been given the basic knowledge of decontaminating casualties."

As the individual CBIRF Marine or Sailor increases their knowledge in all the unit's basic disciplines, the effectiveness of the organization as a whole to support local, national and federal agencies becomes greater, explains Robins. 

"By training all of our Marines and Sailors in the three basic disciplines, CBIRF as an organization becomes as asset to other federal agencies or first responders that may be responding to the same incident," said the 25-year old communications officer.  If called upon, we may also assist them in executing their mission requirements." 

All of the unit's Marines were required to attend classes that included instruction in casualty packaging, marking procedures, and providing detailed information about the contaminated environment in which they would be operating to the tactical command post. 

"I was very pleased by the results of the classes, especially because they were primarily taught by sergeants and corporals," said Robins.  "The Marines showed that they cared by making an effort to learn the skills of their fellow Marines.  This was made evident when they were challenged to put their knowledge to work."

During the final phase of the evolution the Marines and Sailors were called upon to respond to a simulated chemical attack in which 50 casualties were trapped in gutted concrete buildings.  Before responding, each Marine was removed from their primary IRF duty and challenged to execute the duties of another CBIRF discipline.  Armed only with their personal protective gear and chemical detection devices, they moved into the simulated contaminated area. 

"The Marines and Sailors overcame several obstacles during the simulated chemical attack," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert L. Novak, the battalion's nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) officer.  "One of these obstacles was how to organize once they were downrange in the contaminated environment.  We taught the Marines the basic skills but not how they mesh once downrange.  Not only was the mission accomplished, it was completed in a reasonable amount of time despite the chaos inherent at an incident site.  The Marines and Sailors surpassed my expectations."
Chemical Biological Incident Response Force