Decon Ops

Specialized units and capabilities are at the forefront of Ready Force X and the Army Reserve focus on preparing Soldiers to face any threat on the modern battlefield. And when those threats involve chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear elements, the 76th Operational Response Command stands ready to respond.

Person Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class  Brent Powell , 76th U.S. Army Reserve Operational Response

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To help prepare warriors for such an attack, more than 50 Soldiers from the 379th Chemical Company, 76th ORC, spent several days conducting a series of decontamination operations with Soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

“Our mission here was to provide decontamination support to the 1st Armored Division in order to enhance their skills and increase their mission readiness and their understanding of what we do,” said Capt. Andrew Deal, company commander of the 379th Chem. Co., 472nd Chem. Bn. “The goal was to do that by providing opportunities to engage in potential chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) hazard operations.”

“I think this training is really important for these Soldiers because, should this happen in real life, they would be under a lot of stress and panic… they will have that training to reflect back on and keep their heads on straight.” — Capt. Andrew Deal, 379th Chemical Company, 76th Operational Response Command

Within 24 hours, Soldiers of the 379th Chem.

Co. were integrated into the 1st Armored Division’s training exercise and called into action.

“We received notification that a unit had been hit with a nerve agent, and we were given their location,” said Deal. “After conducting a reconnaissance of the area and going through our troop leading procedures, we began setting up.”

The company established their site by setting up three vehicle decontamination lanes and two personnel decontamination areas. The vehicle lanes allowed Stryker vehicles to drive in, be sprayed down with water to rid them of any possible chemical contaminants, and then drive out to return to the battle. Soldiers who may have been exposed to the hazardous agents were led to a decon area where they were able to quickly exchange their potentially contaminated Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear for new gear. The entire process is designed to allow Soldiers to return to the fight as quickly as possible.

Within a few hours, the team had decontaminated 12 Stryker vehicles and processed more than 60 Soldiers through the decon procedures. The following day, the team was able to decontaminate 12 additional Stryker vehicles and more than 40 additional personnel.

“I think this training is really important for these Soldiers because, should this happen in real life, they would be under a lot of stress and panic,” said Deal. “That’s why it’s very important to train them on the proper decon procedures now, so they will have that training to reflect back on and keep their heads on straight. This also gets us out of our comfort zone by allowing us to work with Soldiers who aren’t familiar with decon procedures and gives us more time to train on the proper techniques to hone our skills and improve.”

Staff Sgt. Christopher Montoya, a native of Chicago, Illinois and platoon sergeant assigned to 379th, said the Soldiers were focused and morale remained high.

“Our mission has been going pretty smoothly,” said Montoya. “They are all professionals and they have a good understanding of what we are here to do, [which is] to cross-train and represent the Army Reserve.”

One of the Soldiers going through the decon training was Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Johnson, a medic and native of Mililani, Hawaii assigned to the 501st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. “It’s been awhile since we’ve done any CBRN training so it’s definitely good to have this opportunity,” he said “I have a lot of respect for the Soldiers out here doing this wearing full MOPP suits in 100-degree temperatures.”

Deal felt the integration with the 1st Armored Division added significant value to the training. “Our Soldiers have done everything they could here to not only conduct a decon operation, but also cross-train the active-duty Soldiers the best they could with the time they were given.

“I think we should absolutely do more of this multi-component CBRN training in the future,” said Deal. “CBRN is a real-world threat in today’s environment and we have to be trained and ready to encounter that threat.”

Sgt. 1st Class Brent Powell 76th U.S. Army Reserve Operational Response
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