Story and Photo by
Spc. Marcus Fichtl
8th Military Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sustainment Command
FORD ISLAND — Screams pierced the air as first responders pushed through debris, smoke and chemical hazards while responding to a massive industrial explosion that rocked the warehouses, here, Sept. 15.
Thankfully, the explosions and chemical hazards were simulated, but the training was undoubtedly as real as it could get for the 71st Chemical Company, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, during its pre-deployment training and certification exercises.
The 71st Chemical Co. conducted chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, or CBRN, and Soldiering tasks, said Maj. Chris Iwan, CBRN officer, 8th MP Bde.
“We tested the company’s ability to support a foreign country in consequence mitigation,” he said. “The 71st (Chemical Co.) was asked to give a capabilities demonstration for the local government, when one of the nearby warehouses had an industrial explosion, forcing them to switch focus and detect, sample, decontaminate and triage the situation.”
Unit training normally focuses on platoon-level tasks, and individual roles and missions, including decontamination and mounted-chemical reconnaissance. However, this scenario employed the company’s ability to put together pieces of a CBRN jigsaw puzzle with other entities.
“We’re used to being in the lead and taking charge, but during this (upcoming) deployment, we’ll be there as support,” Iwan said, “and that’s why we’ve emphasized joint training with (Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel and) the U.S. Air Force, and role-playing with foreign nationals during this weeklong certification exercise.
“This exposure to other groups gets (Soldiers) the experience they will need to work efficiently outside of their comfort zone,” he said.
As initial responders pressed into the warehouse, role-players screamed and lunged at them, but responders remained calm and made sure to identify the chemical threats, so the rescue operation could commence.
“You want to help people right away, but you have to understand (that) we can create greater risks if we don’t know what the chemical agents are or what they react with,” said Sgt. Ryan Macuch, 71st Chemical Co. “How we decontaminate and treat them has to drastically change (depending on the chemical agents) to prevent even worse injury. It’s a tough mind-state to maintain, but if you don’t, the mission and lives will be at stake.”
After the team identified and secured the site, rescue operations commenced.
More than 100 Soldiers played a vital role in rescuing victims during the initial response to decontamination.
“This is something the company needed,” Macuch said. “It shows our potential and motivates the Soldiers.”