Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Keith Saffran, a technical rescue technician, Headquarters and Service Company, Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF), II Marine Expeditionary Force, conducts a repel from a tower, rescuing a simulated casualty, here, April 30. The unit hosted a tour, showing leaders from across North America how CBIRF operates in a contaminated environment.

Photo by Sgt. Leslie Palmer

‘America’s 9-1-1 Force’ shows key leaders how to fight an unseen enemy

30 Apr 2009 | Sgt. Leslie Palmer

“Let no American’s ghost come back to say our training let him down.”

In an effort to show civic leaders from across North America the intensity and intricate training Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force Marines and sailors go through to be an emergency responder, the unit hosted a North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Northern Command (NORTHCOM) directed tour, here, April 30 to show key leaders how CBIRF operates in a contaminated environment.  

Col. John Pollock, commanding officer, CBIRF, briefed the leaders on the history of the unit, including a former Marine who had a significant impact on CBIRF.  Ray Downey, a special operations chief with the Fire Department of New York, had major input into the start of CBIRF's technical rescue platoon.  Downey responded to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, and paid the ultimate price in one of the World Trade Center towers.

"Ray was a huge supporter and proponent of CBIRF.  In 2004, we named this [Raymond M. Downey Sr. Responder Training Facility] after him as a tribute," said Pollock.

The civic leaders were separated into several groups and visited five stations including technical rescue, search and extraction and emergency medical care. Civic leaders entered a simulated contaminated area at the final station and saw CBIRF Marines and sailors practicing all disciplines after an incident.  

The identification and detection platoon (IDP) demonstrated CBIRF’s mobile laboratory and gave civic leaders a chance to view gear which is a significant part of IDP’s mission.

"We can identify what the agent is, with the mobile lab," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Peter Bordeleau, operations chief, CBIRF.

IDP Marines categorize the contaminant as a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) incident. 

"[IDP Marines] identify the chemical and that dictates how the decontamination Marines get the casualties clean,” Bordeleau explained. “Knowing the agent allows medical to treat the cause of the contamination, not just the symptoms.”

CBIRF’s various sections work together during a CBRNE incident to accomplish the mission.

"Everything we do at CBIRF contributes to saving lives," said Maj. Stan Bacon, the battalion operations officer.

One civic leader said he enjoyed seeing CBIRF in action and was impressed with the training of CBIRF Marines and sailors he observed.

"It's been a great exposure to a very diverse and highly specialized response capability that the military has for virtually any kind of exposure...medical, search and extract, technical rescue operations," said Rick Myers, police chief, Colo. Springs police department, Colo. Springs. "It's a very impressive array of assets that clearly work together like a fine tuned machine."

One Marine said it was good for key leaders to see what CBIRF has to offer the emergency response community.

“We do great things here,” said Sgt. James Hopper, a decontamination specialist, company A, CBIRF. “If any [chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive incident] happens in the Washington D.C. area, we can respond to anyone’s request for help.”

It’s also important to know the people you work with, which makes inter-agency training all the more important, according to Hopper.

“When [CBIRF Marines and sailors] do the State of the Union, we work with [civilian emergency responders] side-by-side,” Hopper added. “So, before anything happens, we know what they’re going to do, and they know what we’re going to do.”

The civic leaders saw the technical rescue platoon Marines rescue a simulated casualty from a tower by setting up a high line from the tower to the ground. The Marines then repelled from the tower with the victim secured to a Stokes basket. The leaders also got to see Marines perform personal protective equipment emergency action procedures in confined spaces, all of which furthered Myers’ confidence in CBIRF Marines and sailors.

"Being in the public safety business, I'm always working and sharing with my staff on planning and pre-planning...I can take this information [about CBIRF] back to my emergency management personnel, and we'll know that in the event of catastrophe, which this unit is geared up for, it will expedite our [response] capability," Myers explained.

For Myers, seeing an impeccable operation was one of the highlights of the tour.

"What I really value and appreciate is the seamless manner in which everything comes together. In other words…everything operates with synergy,” Myers described.

To be a CBIRF Marine or sailor, everyone at the unit must complete the CBIRF Basic Operations Course (CBOC), while key leaders must complete the CBIRF Advanced Course in addition to CBOC. In addition to these courses, CBIRF Marines and sailors conduct training evolutions monthly in simulated contaminated environments utilizing their personal protective equipment (PPE), furthering the synergistic nature of CBIRF.

Chemical Biological Incident Response Force