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Lejeune Marines get up to speed on NBC techniques

8 Jul 2004 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

Chemical threats for Marines in Iraq haven't been a leading concern since combat operations last year, but that doesn't mean anyone is letting their guard down.

Marines from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment held decontamination drills to keep their Marines ready to respond to a nuclear, chemical and biological attack.

"During this three-day class we spent a few hours each day bringing the Marines up to speed on detailed decontamination training for personnel and vehicles," said Cpl. Jason L. Barton, a 28-year-old NBC specialist from Wilson, Kan.  "After the class they're supposed to go back and teach this stuff to their Marines."

The reason every Marine needed to know how to supervise and participate in a decontamination site was because you never knew who would be available, Barton said.  Marines from Headquarters and Service Company were chosen because they would likely aide the rifle companies who would be exposed to an NBC agent.

"The Marine Corps is a winning team and we prepare for the impossible as well as the probable," Barton said.  "There's no doubt this training could save lives."

During the training, the Marines were shown how to navigate each station of a decontamination center.  They learned how to properly disrobe a contaminated Marine and clean them of all NBC agents.  Once the Marines were thought to be clean they are tested with NBC-detection tools.

"The two things we use are the chemical agent monitor and the automatic chemical agent detector," said Lance Cpl. Peter W. Duffy, a 20-year-old NBC specialist from North Hampton, Mass.  "There's nothing hard about operating these detectors.  These guys can pass on how to operate them which will help if we ever have an NBC attack."

The Marines were expected to leave the classes with a new appreciation and understanding of NBC procedures.  Although the classes taught the Marines some things they didn't know and refreshed them on others, practice still makes perfect.

"We have plans for follow-on classes to keep this information fresh in their heads," Barton explained.  "We need to maintain their skills so each of them can properly operate a decontamination center."

Handling NBC decontamination presents a concern to those treating other Marines.  In the event of an NBC attack, Marines could possibly be injured and contaminated with agents.  This problem was addressed during the classes.

"Marines need to realize they're going through the decontamination center before they go to the base's aid station here," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher T. Brown, a 34-year-old hospital corpsman from Albany, Ga.  "We have to make sure they won't infect the sterile environment of the aid station."

This doesn't mean that injured Marines won't get medical help in time.

"We have NBC stretchers we can use to carry Marines through the decontamination process," Brown said.  "We'll also perform life saving steps the whole time if they're needed."

In addition, corpsmen can also stand in for the Marines inside the decontamination center to help wash off NBC agents.

"Something I learned here was that you can't take their gas mask off until they're at that station in the center," Brown said.  "Even if it would help you treat him you could hurt yourself and him more by breaking his gas mask seal before the right time."

The site also gave the Marines the added bonus of practicing in a set-up just as it would be used in combat environment.  This enabled them to obtain a more real-life feel for the whole process. 

"It was just like walking them through the real thing..." Barton said.