STUMP NECK NAVY ANNEX, INDIAN HEAD, MD -- Every day, people grit their teeth and bear the pain when it comes to District of Columbia traffic, but during an emergency Marines and sailors with the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, don’t have that luxury. CBIRF’s mission is to save lives as quickly as possible, and traffic can’t stand in their way.
Traveling by either air, land or sea is the Marine Corps’ mode of transport. “With a Landing Craft, Air Cushioned, all responders get there at the same time, as opposed to traveling by helicopter,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael Woods, Company B gunnery sergeant, CBIRF.
CBIRF Marines honed their skills on how to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosion incidents with the LCAC, here Jan. 27. The Marines trained for safety procedures, embarkation, debarkation and convoy operations.
“When people's lives are at stake, time is critical,” said 1st Sgt. Brian Taylor, Company B. “So we continuously train.”
Traveling by LCACs which are over-the-beach fully amphibious landing crafts capable of carrying a 60-75 ton payload, offer more advantages for CBIRF when responding to a CBRNE attack. Traveling by helicopter offers less advantages for CBIRF Marines and sailors, transporting fewer troops and fewer assets to a CBRNE attack.
“I have more latitude with an LCAC, which we use to respond to a CBRNE attack,” said Chief Warrant Officer Milton Thomas, Company B executive officer. “I can collectively move my forces.”
“On a good day, traffic in the Washington area is unpredictable,” said Taylor. “However, during an attack, the roads could be jammed with vehicles. So, training on how to travel on LCACs is vital to saving lives.”
Sgt. Rogelio Garcia, embark chief, Headquarters and Service Company, explained how the LCAC eliminates major challenges when responding to an incident.
“If a major incident occurred, the Marines need to be able to get to the situation quickly,” Garcia said. “Every second spent in a traffic jam equals potential lives lost. The LCAC gives CBIRF the option to travel by water if necessary.”
The LCAC training truly expanded the Marines’ response capability giving them an opportunity to fine-tune their embarkation skills, learning how to load an LCAC.
"This is unique training at CBIRF,” Taylor said. “What we do and what we provide for the nation’s capital region is critical to homeland security."
"Time is of the essence in response,” said Capt. Winston Boyd, embarkation officer, Headquarters and Service Company. “LCACs are designed to transport tactical vehicles, but here we have a lot of commercial vehicles. This hands-on training is important because it reduces the amount of time it takes to load the vehicles on the LCAC."
CBIRF Marines need to know what it takes to be able to deploy as rapidly as possible, and training with LCACs provides the Marines the experience and tools they need to deploy as expeditiously as possible, Taylor explained.
By training the Marines in a realistic environment, it ensures they can safely conduct operations in a real-world incident.
"For embarkation Marines, this training is good because a lot of shoring goes into these kinds of exercises,” Boyd said. “This training gives them a chance to perfect those skills, so when the real thing happens, the response will play out safely."