CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Tucked into the inventory of lethal machinery operated by the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion "Wolf Pack" is a handful of vehicles designed to protect friendly forces from deadly enemy surprises.
In the skilled hands of 2nd LAR Bn. and 2nd Marine Division Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Leathernecks, the six-wheeled Fox M93A1 NBC Reconnaissance System can prowl the battlefield detecting weapons of mass destruction and preventing troop exposure.
Produced by General Dynamics, the Fox acts as a rolling laboratory, analyzing air, water and ground samples.
Among the high-tech gadgets arming each vehicle are a Double Wheel Sampling System paired with a Mobile Mass Spectrometer, which enables operators to get immediate information on the chemical makeup of any substance found on surface soil. Two arms equipped with slightly tacky wheels alternately extend to the ground at the rear of the vehicle and carry soil samples to a sensor that analyzes the samples.
The Fox also comes equipped with a Remote Sensing Chemical Agent Alarm, a sort of "eye-in-the-sky" that rises from the top of the vehicle, detecting chemical agent clouds as far as five kilometers away.
The Army began using the state-of-the-art Fox operationally during Desert Storm, and the M93A1 used by the Marine Corps is the third generation of the vehicle, according to Cpl. Eric D. Swithin, Communications and Multi-Integrated Chemical Agent Detection noncommissioned officer at 2nd LAR Bn.
Improvements to the current Fox include a navigation system capable of uplink with seven satellites and a reduction to three required crewmembers vice four, said Swithin.
There are presently four Fox vehicles maintained by 2nd LAR Bn. here, and the Marines trained to operate the advanced equipment understand the importance of their mission.
"We provide protection for the Marines operating near enemy lines," said Chief Warrant Officer John A. Cass, Fox platoon commander and 2nd LAR Bn. NBC officer. The goal of the Fox Marines is to guard their fellow ground warriors from deadly, unconventional threats, said Cass.
The Foxs are typically attached to forward operating units such as their 2nd Light Armored Vehicle Bn. brethren, providing a "screen" in advance of the infantry. The Fox crews may be tasked with providing route, area or zone reconnaissance to enable the safe passage of troops through battlefield areas, said Cass.
To ensure the Fox Marines will be successful in their role as guardians, classes are conducted regularly in the rear.
"Our goal for training is 16 hours per month, minimum," said Cass.
Additionally, efforts are made to incorporate the Foxs and their crews into training that other units are conducting.
"We like cross-training with troops to let them know our capabilities," said Cass.
The Fox platoon will play into upcoming exercises such as the division's Digital Training Exercise and Command Post Exercise, according to Chief Warrant Officer Muhammed R. Hassan, 2nd Marine Division NBC officer.
"They will tie into the command and control with warning and reporting procedures," said Hassan.
According to Hassan, the inclusion of the Foxs in these exercises will serve to multiply their effectiveness in NBC defense.