Marines suit up for NBC defense

9 Aug 2006 | Pfc. Christopher D. Lyttle

More than 70 personnel from II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, II MEF, suited up in Mission Oriented Protective Posture Aug. 9, to conduct their annual refresher course in Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense.

“For some of these Marines it’s their first gas chamber visit in the Fleet, so they think it’s going to be like boot camp,” said Sgt. Kristina L. Moran, noncommissioned officer-in-charge, CBRND training, assigned with II MHG. “The focus isn’t about being under pressure, but having confidence this equipment will save your life.”

Moran gave the morning period of instruction on how to properly suit up with MOPP gear, check and clear a mask, and signal for gas.

During the class, she also taught the M291 decontamination kit.

“It’s a black, charcoal-like substance that absorbs and removes all liquid and chemical agents,” said Moran.

She explained that it takes much soap, water, time and effort to wash the substance completely away.

Moran explained how to properly react and give aid to another Marine after a nuclear blast.

“The back pressure arm lift method is used in the event you’re suited up and can’t perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation for obvious reasons,” she said.

After the period of instruction, the Marines lined up to enter the chamber filled with O-chlorobenzylidene or crystalline silica particles, commonly referred to as CS or tear gas.

The center table in the concrete, air-tight chamber held a propane tank. Underneath, a burner plate was ignited and dissolved two orange tablets. The tablets dissolved into a haze of crystals that filled the room.

Lance Cpl. Mark P. Strempke, a CBRND clerk, II MHG, led drills for the Marines that included swift movement of the head and body to ensure the gas mask is strapped tight, and light calisthenics including jogging in place to show how the mask will stay in place even in a fast-paced battlefield environment to give service members confidence in their masks.

Some unmasked Marines outside couldn’t help but show a teary reaction as the exit door opened and the group came out single file, patting away CS crystals off their MOPP gear.

“CS is really irritating,” said Moran. “It’s strong to the smell and makes a burning sensation to the eyes, nasal passages and skin. It doesn’t affect some Marines as much, but some can’t stand it at all.”

Two groups made it in and out and were debriefed upon properly removing their MOPP gear with the help of others. The Marines successfully completed their annual NBC training with little sweat and tears.

Outside the chamber, the instructors have posted a sign lightheartedly cautioning Marines who dare enter, “Even the brave cry here.”