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Lt. Col. Michael Rohlfs turned over his command of Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, to Col. John Pollock July 9. Rohlfs is now the Executive Officer.

Photo by MSgt. James Nutt

Unique mission for a unique unit

9 Jul 2008 | Cpl. Leslie Palmer

Some commanding officers may be known for instilling good order and discipline in their units, while others are known for their candor. At Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, commanding officers may be known for their unique role in a changing battlefield.

CBIRF Marines and sailors welcomed their new commanding officer July 9, when Lt.Col. Michael Rohlfs relinquished his command to Col. John Pollock. Rohlfs will serve as CBIRF’s executive officer. Both Rohlfs and Pollock agree CBIRF plays a major role in homeland security, unlike typical Marine Corps units that deploy to combat zones.

Pollock has deployed three times to the war in Iraq; he brings that experience in the Marine Corps to support a different end of the spectrum when it comes to warfare.

“CBIRF responded to the ricin and anthrax attacks on Capitol Hill in an extremely professional manner and was able to execute consequence management operations much faster than anyone else, and that’s had a tremendous impact on our professional reputation,” Pollock said.

With such an important mission, protecting the homeland, leadership at CBIRF takes on a critical meaning.

“The Marine Corps prides itself as an organization that fosters good leadership at all levels,” said Pollock. “Whether you’re at CBIRF or an infantry battalion, there’s an expectation of effective leadership.

“I always believed that true leadership should empower those in your command to succeed…to work for the good of the entire unit,” said Rohlfs. “It is this cooperation and camaraderie that has made us successful. Under Col Pollock’s direction we will take up the torch and move CBIRF to the next level.” 

With effective leadership, Pollock said, CBIRF Marines and sailors can support a unique mission. As the battlefield is always evolving, so are CBIRF’s response procedures and training operations.

“As the battlefield evolves, I see CBIRF continuing to be an important factor in the defense of our homeland,” Headquarters and Service Company 1stSgt. William Frye said. “With the current situation in our world, it’s important in the defense of our country that we have units like CBIRF within our country and abroad supporting our men and women abroad and the citizens of this country.”

When directed, CBIRF can forward-deploy and respond to a CBRNE terrorist incident in order to assist local, state or federal agencies and designated combatant commanders in the conduct of consequence management operations.

“Unlike traditional Marine Corps units that gear up for deployment to combat zones, CBIRF is a force ready to support the nation every day of the year,” Rohlfs said.

CBIRF is capable of conducting agent detection and identification, casualty search and rescue operations, personnel decontamination, and emergency medical care and stabilization of victims in a contaminated environment. This mission requires preparation and training, all of which CBIRF has spent years developing.

Most Marines don’t have the training provided at CBIRF, said Staff Sgt. Randy Peat, technical training administration and logistics coordinator, Headquarters and Service Company, CBIRF.

CBIRF may be a battalion of typical Marines, but their role in defending the homeland is far from unoriginal.

“CBIRF Marines and sailors get training you don’t see anywhere else in the service,” Peat said. “We have a unique mission that no other Marine Corps unit has been given. A unique mission requires unique training.”

CBIRF Marines and sailors travel to the Defense Research and Development Center in Canada, where they can hone their skills on extraction techniques, emergency life-saving skills, and decontamination techniques; all to be completed in a live-agent environment.

The training is especially useful in preparation for a possible real-world chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive event, Peat said.

“CBIRF is a leader in the first-responder community,” Peat said. “Failure to complete the life-saving mission CBIRF is tasked with during a CBRNE incident could mean fatal results for casualties.”

Since it’s establishment, CBIRF has become a truly unique Marine unit with an extraordinary mission, said Rohlfs.

“CBIRF does not have a typical Marine Corps mission, but in typical Marine Corps fashion, we set the standard,” Rohlfs said. “I take great pride in hearing other organizations identify their goal as being ‘CBIRF like.’”

CBIRF has a strong Navy, Marine Corps team. Hospital corpsmen and doctors at the unit provide medical care for the battalion both in and out of the contaminated area.

“The Marines in this unit basically extract and decontaminate casualties, but once those casualties are extracted and decontaminated and are still sick, then it’s up to our hospital corpsmen to stabilize them and do triage,” Pollock said. “With our corpsmen, we can ensure casualties will receive the care they need.”

With the Marines and sailors working together, Frye said, CBIRF has a promising future of saving lives.

“What CBIRF Marines and sailors do is the future of warfare,” Frye said. “People know that what we bring to the table is going to save lives at some point in time.”

Chemical Biological Incident Response Force