June 18, 2009

229th Chemical Company seeks zero visibility

By Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — As part of their two-week annual training, Soldiers from the Roanoke-based 229th Chemical Company laid down a large blanket of fog June 15 during mobile smoke operations at Fort Pickett.

  229th Chemical Company

A humvee from the 229th Chemical Company releases a cloud of smoke during mobile smoke operations June 15 at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Spc. J. Erin Jones, 116th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs)

“Smoke is used to obscure your movements or whatever operation you don’t want the enemy to have eyes on,” said Capt. Chris Troesh, commander of the 229th Chemical Company.

During the training scenario, his Soldiers had to lay down a blanket of smoke with less than 50 meters of visibility to keep enemy forces from observing a friendly airfield. They accomplished this by conducting both static smoke operations and mobile smoke operations using 12 humvees loaded with M56 Smoke Generators. 

The M56 Smoke Generator is a large-area smoke generator system that is mounted on the humvee and can obscure everything from airfields and bridges to convoys and troop movements. 

  229th Chemical Company

A line of humvees from the 229th Chmical Company blankets an airfield with smoke during the training exercise. The mission was to keep enemy forces from observing a friendly airfield. (Photo by Spc. J. Erin Jones, 116th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs)

To create the smoke, vegetable oil is burned at a high temperature so it creates a big white cloud. The generator can shoot out nearly three times as much smoke as the unit’s old smoke machines could, according to Troesh.

“The difficulty with smoke is that it’s all weather related,” said Troesh. “Smoke operations in the chemical corps are the hardest thing you can do because it’s all art. The only science to it is how much oil you’re burning or how much diesel you’re burning.” 

This was the first opportunity the 229th has had to employ the equipment in a tactical environment, according to Lt. Col. Doug Messner, commander of the 1030th Transportation Battalion. The unit received the equipment following last year’s annual training and has been gaining familiarity with it throughout the year, he said.

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