Chemical Company gains proficiency on new detection equipment

Sgt. 1st Class Michelle Thompson and 1st Lt. Todd Morris review their carrier cards during Biological Identification/Detection System New Equipment Training at Fort McClellan, Ala., March 5-21 to become proficient in operating the joint biological point detection system, or JBPDS. Thompson is the BIDS platoon sergeant for the Rocky-mount based 229th Chemical Company. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Roger Israel, 229th Chemical Company)

FORT MCCLELLAN, Ala.—The Rocky Mount-based 229th Chemical Company, 276th Engineer Battalion sent a platoon to the Biological Identification/Detection System New Equipment Training at Fort McClellan, Ala., March 5-21 to become proficient in operating the joint biological point detection system, or JBPDS. The 29 Soldiers trained to effectively conduct biological surveillance and sample evacuation of suspected biological warfare agents and report their findings to their commander and higher headquarters.

“Soldiers were introduced to basic biology of bioweapons, toxins, and current medical treatments, followed by a robust academic course which detailed several high-value and advanced computer systems contained within each BIDS unit,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Czaplicki, commander of the 229th.

“The biggest challenge with the course was the massive amount of information thrown at the Soldiers in a small amount of time,” said Staff Sgt. Ricky Addington, a squad leader in the 229th. “Soldiers had to become comfortable with numerous systems, such as the FBCB2 system, Defense Advanced GPS Receiver and the JBPDS to be able to function as a BIDS team.”

Following the academic course, the Platoon participated in several dynamic field-training exercises, culminating in a 24-hour operation in which they deployed several BIDS teams and ran concurrent biological sampling.

Soldiers of the 229th Chemical Company inoculate their carrier cards during Biological Identification/Detection System New Equipment Training at Fort McClellan, Ala., March 5-21 to become proficient in operating the joint biological point detection system, or JBPDS. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Roger Israel, 229th Chemical Company)

“We had never used any bio detection equipment before,” said 1st Lt. Todd Morris, chemical reconnaissance platoon leader. “The course was only two and a half weeks long, but by the end, my platoon was able to build an exceptional team cohesiveness and competency in operating the system.”

“Many Soldiers had never used any of this equipment before but the instructors presented the information very clearly so everyone picked up on it quickly. When it came time to do the FTX, leaders ensured that Soldiers who were strong in a task paired with weaker Soldiers inside the BIDS,” said Addington.

During the training, some of the JBPDS would malfunction and create new training opportunities not necessarily written into the curriculum of the course. The Soldiers seized these opportunities to become better acquainted with the equipment.

“Those teams became ‘experts’ at trouble shooting and replacing many of those parts by the time they finished rebuilding them. Sometimes success is defined in failure,” said Morris. “Those Soldiers will serve as our ‘go to’ teams in the likely event of any breakdowns in the future.”

“The biggest thing the Soldiers gained from the training was proficiency and confidence with the equipment,” added Addington. “We now have 30 subject matter experts who can train their fellow Soldiers on this equipment when we field it.”

Soldiers that completed the new equipment training will receive the L4 additional skill identifier and actively participate as members of the BIDS Platoon under the newly assigned area support mission within the 229th Chemical Company.

The purpose of the JBPDS is to limit effects of biological agent attacks with potential for catastrophic effects on U.S. forces. The JBPDS is intended to provide biological agent point-detection, identification, and sampling capability for both fixed-site and mobile operations.

“The BIDS is an excellent resource for the U.S. Army. It is capable of detecting a variety of biological weapons or toxins deployed against the U.S. The concept is that a BIDS element would position themselves around a critical site, such as an airport, embassy, forward operating base, etc., and begin a series of biological sampling,” Czaplicki said. “As a biological weapon passes overhead, the BIDS collects an air sample and passes (it) through the JPBDS. From there it runs through a series of computers and valves which identifies and stores the sample. The Soldier operating the BIDS unit prepare the sample for HAZMAT transport and sent to a local, regional or theater laboratory for further evaluation and confirmatory identification.”