CBIRF takes the (Capitol) hill

3 Dec 2001 | 2ndLt. Paul C. Cabellon

The battle against terrorism continues on the Capitol as Marines from the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force executed their third mission in Operation Noble Eagle inside the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

CBIRF, operationally falling under the U.S. Capitol Police command, moved in alongside specialists from the Environmental Protection Agency with an uncommon mission -at least to the Marines: to take samples from office spaces inside the Dirksen.

The Marines and specialists shuffled into the building in their chemical suits with hepa-vacuums and sampling kits -weaponry found nowhere else in the Corps.

"It's the younger, junior Marines you really have to give credit to in situations like this.  They've worked and trained hard to get where they are," said Col. T.X. Hammes, CBIRF commander.

"It was like a training evolution with a few small differences.  We had a live agent down range, and it's not every day you get to work in the Capitol." he said.

From their home in Indian Head, Md., CBIRF sent a 100-man Initial Response Force (IRF) to the scene, representative of CBIRF's uniqueness.  While CBIRF's gestalt is, 'saving lives,' said the commander, the Marines were engaged in a mission for which they never concentrated in training.  "It really says something about versatility," said Hammes.

"Sometimes you show up with a different set of tools than you need, but you can find a way to finish the job.  That's what the young staff NCO's and NCO's did," said Hammes.  "There were no casualties in this case, something we always train for," he said.

CBIRF Marines completed a similar mission in the Longworth House Office Building mid-October.  Over the course of a week, Marines took samples from more than 200 office spaces.

Marines were also tasked to move large quantities of mail out of the P Street Postal Facility where officials from the EPA discovered one of the Anthrax letters.

The Marines worked quickly and with a marked professionalism recognized by their civilian counterparts, said Lt.Col. Scott Graham, CBIRF executive officer, at an all-hands debrief after the Longworth operation.

CBIRF has recently become a component of the recently reactivated 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism), based in Camp Lejeune.