Wearing Class “B” protective suits and breathing through oxygen masks, the team looks as if they belong in a science-fiction movie. But unlike the realm of science-fiction, the threats this team faces are both deadly and real.
“Our purpose here was to rehearse our reconnaissance (tactics, techniques and procedures), improve our ability to respond and familiarize the Marines with operating in a low-light or no-light environment,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jonathan B. Davis, officer in charge of the CBRN defense team and native of Cleveland.
More than a dozen Marines conducted reconnaissance and analysis on a suspicious, fenced-in warehouse and storage facility. To cover the large storage lot and building, the Marines split into small teams.
Flashlights were used for the visual search, while a variety of detection equipment was used to notify the Marines of unseen dangers. The team’s Multi-RAE scanner detects gasses and vapors, a radioisotope device reads radiation levels, and the First Defender and HazMat ID systems identify any detected threats.
“We have 100 percent confidence in our equipment and its ability to tell us what we are dealing with,” said Cpl. Ryan P. Berthiaume, a CBRN defense specialist for the 31st MEU and native of Palmer, Mass. “The equipment allows us to provide the incident commander accurate information, to decide the best course of action.”
The Marines of the CBRN defense team are qualified technicians in the detection, identification and decontamination of hazardous materials and chemical components to weapons of mass destruction.
The team is capable of detecting the full range of traditional CBRN materials and hundreds of thousands of dangerous industrial and commercial chemicals. But detection and identification are just the beginning of the CBRN defense team’s capabilities.
The Marines also conduct sampling, extraction of contaminated casualties, mitigating spills of hazardous materials, technical decontamination, mass decontamination, and sensitive site exploitation.
“Our primary focuses are terrorist incidents, accidents involving hazardous materials and supporting operations to prevent the spread of WMDs,” said Staff Sgt. Bradley A. Mowree, CBRN defense chief and native of Lander, Wyo."
As part of theater security cooperation, the team’s purpose with the 31st MEU is to support the combat of WMD threats, establish initial response for large scale HazMat incidents, and support allied responses to HazMat incidents.
When participating in exercises with allied nations in the Asia-Pacific, the CBRN Marines focus on sharing knowledge with their counterparts and increasing interoperability for response operations.
The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for the Asia-Pacific region and the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed expeditionary unit.