HMM-162, MAGTF-2 team for desert wash-down;

11 Aug 2002 | Lance Cpl. G. Lane Miley

"Gas! Gas! Gas!" the instructor yelled sounding the alarm for a nuclear, biological and chemical attack. Immediately, Marines cleared their gas masks. They knew they only had a nine-second window before the poisonous gas caused permanent damage.

This was a simulation during a Marine Air Ground Task Force 2 NBC class at Combined Arms Exercise 9-02. The desert warriors here not only executed gear-confidence training in the gas chamber and personal decontamination, Air Combat Element Marines performed NBC decontamination exercises on their aircraft.

Marines and Sailors throughout the MAGTF began their day with classes where they received hands-on training and reviewed the operation of many NBC detectors under Chief Warrant Officer Richard D. Wical's guidance. The instructors came from various units in the MAGTF to include 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and 3rd Battalion, 10th Marines.

Following the classes, the warriors increased the 110-degree temperatures by suiting up to mission-oriented protective posture 4, which is the highest level of MOPP. During an actual attack, they could be in the suits for days at a time.

They filed into the chamber, performed confidence drills by bending over and shaking their heads and ran in place to ensure they had a good mask seal. After this, the Marines pulled the masks away from their faces.

Once the instructor saw that everyone had broken their seals, the Marines cleared the masks and exited the chamber. Outside the room, everyone exercised gear decontamination drills. They paired up and took turns removing their MOPP gear and simulated decontaminating it.

After the gas chamber, the ACE Marines continued.

The Marines used Truck Company's elements as Lance Cpl. Jason A. Allred circled the CH-46 helicopter in his 7-ton truck. NBC Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 and Marine Air Ground 29 Headquarters manned the Light-Weight Decontamination System from the back of the truck while Marines on the ground sprayed the bird.

Chief Warrant Officer Dale Perry said this was to remove any contaminations from the helo's exterior. He said at certain heights, the interior would be cleaned of contaminants.

"This isn't regular training for us, so getting to do it here at CAX is outstanding," Perry, a Texan, said.

The NBC officer for MAG-29 said the training's value is immeasurable.

"Here there are no simulations. It's hand-on, real training," Perry said. "They're doing what they'd do in a combat situation."

Master Sgt. Marc Fischer, HMM-162 assistant maintenance chief, said with the CH-46 being the Corps' most used helicopter, they need to be able do to this in a "hot zone."

Chief Warrant Officer Rodney G. Roberson said when the air, ground and NBC sides get together, it shows the true purpose of the MAGTF - working together as a team. The Oglethorpe, Ga., 3/10 NBC officer, said Marines need more opportunities like this so it becomes muscle memory.

Perry said without the help of the MAGTF and the combat center's Natural Resources Environmental Affairs team training like this does not happen.

MAGTF-2 is currently battling a fictitious enemy during Combined Arms Exercise 9-02's final exercise. Many of the unit's warriors will return home to Camp Lejeune, N.C., later this week.