Virginia Chemical Company conducts full spectrum CBRN operations

Soldiers from the 229th Chemical Company simulate and practice vehicle decontamination techniques  Feb. 9 at Fort Pickett, Va. (Courtesy Photo)

Soldiers from the 229th Chemical Company simulate and practice vehicle decontamination techniques Feb. 9 at Fort Pickett, Va. (Courtesy Photo)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – A year later and the 229th Chemical Company is at it again! Like most sequels, you have the same actors, similar plot, but with much better graphics and technology. That’s exactly what happened at Fort Pickett on Feb 9th, 2013.

Since the transition to an Area Support Chemical Company last year, Soldiers of the 229th have been able to successfully train on all major training tasks associated with the new mission. The addition of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Reconnaissance, Equipment Decontamination, and Biological Surveillance to an already robust CBRN Enhanced Response Force Package, or CERFP, has made an enormous impact to the Virginia National Guard’s readiness.

At Fort Pickett, Soldiers were able to complete the same mission set that they were given almost a year ago, but this time with more equipment and a better understanding of how to do their jobs. The CBRN Reconnaissance Platoon conducted several dismounted point, route, and zone reconnaissance missions using the recently fielded Joint Chemical Agent Detector, or JCAD. The CBRN Decontamination Platoon established a Dedicated Equipment Decontamination Site and simulated decontamination of over 20 vehicles with their recently fielded M12 Decontamination Apparatuses. The Biological Surveillance Platoon successfully conducted a series of critical node array missions using their recently fielded M31A1 Biological Identification / Detection Systems, or BIDS, and simulated the evacuation of a contaminated sample.

“The abilities of the 229th Soldiers are unparalleled,” said Capt. Andrew Czaplicki, 229th Commander. “They’ve worked hard over the past year, really investing in their training, and finally, we all got to see the results of their efforts.”

Platoons were evaluated on the performance of one of their mission essential tasks, most of which were performed without error. “Items identified as ‘needs improvement’ will be retrained in March in preparation for the next evaluated event at the unit’s annual training in April,” said Czaplicki.

In addition to the regularly scheduled drill weekend, four Soldiers remained at Fort Pickett to become CERFP qualified by attending CERFP University. CERFPU provided the opportunity for Soldiers to reinforce their basic skills of chemical monitoring and detection equipment and to train on new equipment specific to the CERFP mission. Soldiers spent over 50-hours at CERFPU which culminated in a small-scale mass casualty decontamination exercise where students, both Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen, established a mock decontamination site and simulated the decontamination of their peers. Soldiers graduated with a Virginia Department of Emergency Management Certificate of Completion for Hazardous Materials Awareness and Operations.

For the past year, the Soldiers of the 229th Chemical Company have been sent to several schools, most notably, the Joint-Point Biological Detection System , or JPBDS, where 29 Soldiers earned the coveted L4 JPBDS Additional Skill Identifier. Soldiers also attended the Dismounted Reconnaissance Course, CBRN Responders Course, and Technical Escort School.

Soldiers will continue to be enrolled in advanced training as the unit completes the transition to the new mission. One of the more recent advancements in Soldier’s institutional training is that chemical specialists are returning to the Virginia National Guard as full Department of Defense certified Hazardous Materials Technicians as a part of a pilot program at the CBRN School at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. This certification is not only a requirement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to HAZMAT incidents, but it also provides Soldiers additional training in operating around nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, but also with toxic industrial chemicals and materials more commonly found on the modern battlefield or in our hometowns.

The 229th Chemical Company is one of 33 Army National Guard CBRN Companies and is equipped with a wide range of state-of-the-art military CBRN equipment. The unit is composed of more than 140 traditional Army Guard personnel who bring a wide variety of civilian and military experience, from fire calls to combat tours. Each Soldier completes over 75 hours of training on top of their initial military training. The 229th is currently assigned to the 276th Engineer Battalion headquartered in Petersburg, Va.