Story by Capt. Tammy Muckenfuss
CLARKS HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – South Carolina National Guard Soldiers from the 251st Area Support Medical Company conducted a joint training exercise with Maryland National Guard Soldiers from the 231st Chemical Company March 7-10, 2018.
Both companies are part of the C2CRE-B formation; the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response enterprises known as CBRNE. C2CRE-B is made up of National Guard response assets. The 251st ASMC and 231st Chem. Co. have been working in partnership with one another on the CBRNE mission since September 2016.
The purpose of this exercise is to make sure both units can work together to handle any kind of incident which would result in wounded people and require decontamination.
“A lot of people think that we only react to chemical or nuclear explosions,” said Sgt. Aaron Thompson, the site safety officer from the 231st Chem. Co. “But often in real-world scenarios, we are reacting to factory fires or an event like a train derailment. We can react and respond to anything that affects a large civilian populous and requires decontamination and treatment.”
Once the units are notified of an incident they must deploy and set-up mass casualty decontamination lanes that are ready to receive, process, decontaminate and treat medical patients in under 2 hours and 30 minutes.
This week’s training was part of the units’ periodic evaluation cycle and culminated in Friday’s event response which was evaluated by members of the U.S. Army North Civil Support Training Activities Group. The U.S. Army North evaluators are responsible for evaluating the CBRNE team’s performance in a realistic setting.
1st Lt. Henry Geer, site manager and executive officer for the 231st Chem. Co. described the training and the trip from Maryland as, “a major muscle move for our company.”
“This is a great opportunity for an external evaluation, while getting together with South Carolina’s 251st Soldiers. This practice enables us to use the full compliments of our equipment and personnel in a joint effort,” said Geer. “Whenever we operate a specific mission, putting troops to task, the Soldiers really shine. They get to show off all the soft skills they’ve learned and put all their training to the test.”
Maj. David Blackmon, commander of the 251st ASMC said that when it comes to working together to set up mass casualty decontamination lines, this team of Soldiers have it down to a science.
“Today the Soldiers performed exceptionally well. The more often we do this, the more proficient we get,” said Blackmon. “The first sergeant and I are seeing the younger non-commissioned officers stepping up, taking charge and driving the training and execution. They know what to do to make it happen, with the goal always being to save lives while minimizing suffering.”
Jeffrey Balistreri, an evaluator with U.S. Army North described the training as a success. “Today we looked at the mass casualty decontamination primarily. We evaluated the set-up which was executed well under the time standard.”
The training and evaluation will continue this spring as both units will be meeting again, this time at the Indiana National Guard’s Muscatatuck Urban Training Center as players in Guardian Response 18, a multi-component U.S. Army Forces Command training exercise.