Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division tested their chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear environment skills May 30, at the CBRN training site.
Although many Soldiers will remember the gas chamber from basic combat training, in which they were required to test the seal of their protective mask before removing it and enduring the painful chemical burn in their eyes and throat, few have had the opportunity to train as thoroughly as the “White Falcons.”
Beginning with a patrol of their area of operations, the infantrymen marched through the woods toward their objective — a gas chamber with a simulated chemical weapon inside.
Before arriving, they were subjected to a notional gas attack, requiring them to assume mission-oriented, protective posture level 4 — full protective suit with mask and rubber boots.
To ensure the Soldiers have confidence in their equipment, chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS gas) was used once in the gas chamber, and anybody who failed to properly apply their equipment would know it immediately once the stinging began.
Once in their MOPP suits, they proceeded to capture the target building, neutralize any enemies and rescue any civilians in danger.
This type of training is critical for today’s evolving battlefield, said 1st Lt. Ross Hussmann, the White Falcon’s chemical officer.
“Watching the news, we’re seeing an increase of CBRN attacks,” said Hussmann. “With our job as the global response force and the need to be able to do any mission at any time, we don’t have time to train for just one type of scenario.”
Hussmann explained that the world has a variety of threats ranging from state-led dictators who may threaten the peace and security of U.S. interests around the world, to non-state-backed terrorists who could potentially unleash attacks on civilians, including chemical or nuclear weapons.
“You never know when you’re going to get gassed, so it’s always good to be prepared,” said Spc. Joseph Zodiates, the Soldier in charge of chemical supplies for Company C.
“Always have your gear ready, have it prepared, and know the ins and outs of your equipment,” Zodiates advised.
“We’re getting hands-on training on how to properly put on the equipment without contaminating anything,” he explained.
More than a decade of warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq has taken its toll on pre-9/11 training and tactics, Hussmann explained.
By preparing for all possibilities now, the GRF can be successful in any potential mission ranging from disaster relief, to responding to terrorist chemical attacks on civilians.
“Our training effort is a result of the changing threat conditions that face our nation,” said Lt. Col. Erik Berdy, the commander of 2nd Bn., 325th AIR. “Beginning with last year’s train up for the Joint Readiness Training Center, we have incrementally increased the amount of CBRN-related individual, leader and collective tasks training.”
Berdy explained that chemical environment situations will become more integrated in other training exercises and will remain as an enduring component.
The gas chamber will be a semi-annual event for the White Falcons as part of the battalion’s overall CBRN readiness effort.
“I am extremely proud of the effort my staff has put into organizing and running the training events, as well as the effort and focus the companies are exhibiting as they prepare for, and execute the training,” Berdy concluded. “They have taken my intent and guidance and run with it. The credit goes to them.”