Division Marines train for NBC readiness

6 May 2002 | Staff Sgt. Jason C. Huffine

And there he was. In the field, chemicals falling from the air, and what did he have on? A gas mask of course - a mask his senior Marines ensured him would protect him and others in case of a chemical attack.

This was the scenario late last week when Cpl. Joseph Blair and the rest of Headquarters Battalion, 2d Marine Division became one with the elements at Landing Zone Falcon here for Command Post Exercise-3 (CPX).

Blair, a motor transport operator with Truck Company, and the rest of the battalion was tested throughout the CPX on their nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) defense and readiness.

"NBC is based on threat," said Chief Warrant Officer-4 Muhammed Hassan, the battalion NBC officer. "It's not based on me walking around with CS grenades, and saying, 'Gas! Gas! Gas!' I want these Marines to know what to do, and be prepared for whatever threat may come along."

Hassan said this because he feels at times Marines are more worried about when the NBC officer is going to release the gas (CS). He said what it takes is continuous training, and that a battalion level exercise provides his NBC team a perfect time to do this.

One type of training that Blair and four other Truck Company Marines received was how to operate as an NBC monitor and survey team.

Staff Sgt. William Conner, the battalion NBC chief, explained when an NBC threat is present in a field environment, before Marines can move their troops into an area, the location must be tested. That's where Blair's Marines come in - the survey team.

Blair, who happens to be Truck Company's NBC NCO, led his Marines through the training.

"Every bit helps," said the Huntington, W. Va., native about NBC monitoring. "When the younger Marines see their NCOs actively out here learning the procedures, they relate with it better. I figure if I know it (survey team procedures) then they'll know it too."

Blair and his team went through some of the NBC survey basics. His platoon commander, 1st Lt. David Nasse, said this type of training is very important for motor transport operators when there's an NBC threat.

He explained when a unit moves locations in the field, a lot of times they are mobile in his company's tactical vehicles. He said before anyone moves there has to be a route reconnaissance done. During this is when the NBC surveys take place. He said his Marines must know how to use Chemical Agent Monitors (CAMs) and follow correct procedures when relaying their findings to the rear.

19 year-old Pfc. Alvin Muller, also a 3d Platoon motor-'T' operator, said of all the training he received in the field this week, he feels knowing how to properly operate the biological kit is the most important.

"We've been through the gas training before, but if we do get attacked the biological kit can tell us what type of chemical agent we've been exposed to. From there, we'll know what to do to take care of others," the Miami native explained.

Conner, who's been an NBC Marine now for ten years, said Marines cannot get enough individual survival training. He explained it takes more then the four hours a quarter, the Corps requires its Marines to do. The Frankfort, Del., native, knows it's hard for the battalion's Marines and Sailors to stop what they're doing and concentrate on NBC.

The survey teams were just one part of the NBC training package during the CPX. Blair and other Marines and Sailors also received continuous training on individual survival measures and decontamination procedures.