MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines, Sailors and their families from the Marine Corps' Chemical Biological Incident Response Force will bid a final farewell here this month as they complete the last phase of their relocation to Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head, Md.
The move, mandated by Commandant Gen. James L. Jones, will place CBIRF closer to Washington, D.C. and New York City, reducing response time to crucial national locations.
To meet the Commandant's mandate, the more than 200 Marines, Sailors and their families will begin checking out of barracks, housing areas, day-care facilities and elsewhere next week.
If the U.S. Marine Corps is America's "911 Response Force," as U.S. President Ronald Reagan once said, than CBIRF is the "911 Force" for the Corps.
Formed in April 1996 by then Commandant Gen. Charles C. Krulak following the Japanese siran gas attack in a Tokyo subway, CBIRF was established to be a unique U.S. national and Department of Defense asset.
The unit is capable of rapidly responding anywhere in the world in the event of a weapons-of-mass-destruction attack or release of a chemical, biological or nuclear agent.
Recognizing the vulnerability of the United States to an incident similar to the Tokyo subway attack, then President George Bush issued Presidential Directive 39 which stated, "The United States shall give the highest priority to developing capabilities to manage the consequences of nuclear, biological or chemical materials or weapons use by terrorists."
In response to the horrific scenes from the Tokyo subway, the World Trade Center bombing and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, CBIRF began training its Marines and Sailors to be a fully self-sustaining unit capable of quickly providing consequence management, force protection and expansive detection, as well as having decontamination and medical treatment abilities for whichever federal agency has requested its support.
In leaving here, CBIRF's home since its inception, its Marines and Sailors will adjust to a new environment at NSWC Indian Head. While here, the nearly 350 active duty CBIRF personnel were under the operational control of II Marine Expeditionary Force. The Marines and Sailors resided here with more than 41,000 other active duty personnel.
While their command relationship with II MEF will not change as a result of the move, CBIRF leaders will find themselves as the largest military presence on the base with only 120 other active duty personnel.
"It will definitely be a challenge for us (at NSWC Indian Head)," said Col. Carlos R. Hollifield, the unit's commanding officer. "We understand that we will increase the active duty population nearly three-fold and as such may be asked to become more involved in our community than was necessary here.
"But, we're excited about the move. This community and the installation at Indian Head has really opened its arms to us and our families and we're looking forward to getting settled in and getting to know our new neighbors both personally and professionally."
To accommodate a unit with the size and importance of CBIRF, officials at NSWC Indian Head began months ago the task of renovating office spaces and family housing units. They also began expanding existing infrastructure to include telephones lines, computer hardware, office furniture and parking spaces, and increasing personnel at key facilities affected by the relocation to include medical and dental facilities and the traffic management office.
"Captain Walsh (John J. Walsh, U.S. Navy) and his staff really made the difference for our Marines, Sailors and especially the families," said Hollifield.
"Once the decision was made at Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps to relocate to Indian Head, Capt. Walsh and his staff contacted us and put us in contact with school officials, area realtors and the family housing office," said Hollifield.
"In March, we hosted a CBIRF Family Day at Marston Pavilion in which he brought down his entire staff and their community counterparts to make our families feel welcome while answering their questions."
Since 1996, CBIRF has pre-staged and deployed in support of federal agencies for the following events and / or activities:
1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA
1997 Summit of the Eight in Denver, CO
1998 & 1999 State of the Union Address in Washington, D.C.
1999 Papal Visit in St. Louis, MO
1999 NATO 50th Anniversary Summit in Washington, D.C.