Feb. 21, 2012

Chemical Company trains for new mission as decontamination unit

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — At first glance, it may have seemed like the Soldiers of the 229th Chemical Company from Rocky Mount had set up an elaborate car wash Feb. 10 for cleaning their Humvees at Fort Pickett, but upon further investigation, one would have learned that the Soldiers were in the “crawl” phase of implementing their new decontamination equipment. As part of the unit’s restructuring, the Soldiers have transitioned from a wheeled battlefield obscuration company to one of the first Area Support Chemical Companies in the Army National Guard; capable of providing Chemical, Biological, Nuclear, and Radiological Reconnaissance, Biological Surveillance, and Decontamination assets to a Brigade-sized element.

 

Soldiers of the Rocky Mount-based 229th Chemical Company conduct decontamination techniques Feb. 10 during a field training exercise at Fort Pickett. The Soldiers of the 229th also focused on Army Warrior Tasks during the weekend-long exercise. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE for more photos on Flickr.

Since 1988, the chemical company Soldiers trained to deploy and provide obscuration assets to maneuver elements or provide concealment on a battlefield to personnel, equipment or terrain by enveloping the area in a heavy, fog-like cloud of smoke. As the battlefield has evolved, so must the missions of the Virginia Army National Guard, so since October 2011 the company has refocused its mission to provide a mass casualty decontamination element to the Virginia Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package.

“Our new mission authorizes the 229th an additional 50 Soldiers and almost $10 million of new equipment,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Czaplicki, 229th commander. “Chemical specialists will be actively participating in new equipment training and advanced schooling over the next few months to prepare for the new mission.”

The new equipment fielded during the 229th’s monthly drill in February included M13 Decontamination Apparatuses, which pump 300 plus degree water used to decontaminate equipment and vehicles, and a Joint-Point Biological Detection System, which is an advanced biological surveillance system. The JPBDS is designed to process air samples and identify any biological hazards, such as anthrax, ricin, or terodotoxin.

“This new mission will provide us the additional manpower and equipment to train for our missions,” said Czaplicki. “Having the extra strength will allow us to conduct more realistic, scenario-based training.”

 

A Soldier with the Rocky Mount-based 229th Chemical Company utilizes decontamination equipment to simulate cleaning chemical agents from equipment during an exercise at Fort Pickett Feb. 10. The 229th recently converted from a battlefield obscuration unit. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE for more photos on Flickr.

The Soldiers of the 229th used the new equipment to simulate decontaminating vehicles to familiarize themselves with the new equipment.

“We set up a Detailed Equipment Decontamination lane where we removed gross decontamination from the vehicle by scrubbing it down and rinsing it before sending it to the next lane,” said Pfc. Jamie Carr, a chemical specialist in the 229th. “This is our first time using the equipment in the unit, but I just finished my [Advanced Individual Training] where we used it a lot. Once we got it going really good, it worked really well.

“My expectation is for us to act like this is a real tactical mission, like we were deployed to Afghanistan. We should train how we’re going to fight. I don’t want to get out here and have a real DED lane going on and have 500 vehicles lined up,” said Carr. “Practice makes perfect, you know? You’re never going to get it right on the first or second try, sometimes it takes three or four, but you have to get it right.”

Soldiers interested in joining the 229th Chemical Company should contact the unit Readiness NCO, Sgt. 1st Class Martin, at 540-483-0683.

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