Story by MC3 Alexa Trafton, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Center Public Affairs
GULFPORT, Miss. - Seabees completed an operational decontamination exercise on board Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, Mississippi on December 7, 2017.
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Steelworker 1st Class Michelle Wheeler plots the decontamination area for the chemical, radiological, and biological (CBR) team during a training drill on board Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport. NMCB 1 completed the exercise that assessed the commands ability to respond and recover from a potential CBR attack. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alexa Trafton)
Fifty Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 participated in a day-long exercise to assess the battalion's ability to respond and recover from a chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) attack.
The exercise challenged the battalion to correctly decontaminate personnel and equipment to rapidly return them to the mission within 6 hours from the start of the exercise. Seabee units are expected to continue the mission with limited delay or loss of the battalion's capability when hit with a CBR attack.
"This is the first time that I've been involved with the CBR exercise," said Builder 3rd Class Andrew Hill, from Chicago, Illinois. "But, even with it being my first time, I was able to learn the important steps that must be taken for each team to be successful overall in a real world scenario."
A scenario of a chemical attack forces the CBR team into action, and they don their full chemical gear, known as Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) suits, allowing the team to safely and effectively operate in a deadly environment.
The MOPP suit consists of a thick uniform with pants and a jacket, rubber boots, rubber gloves and a gas mask, which is worn over the top of the daily working uniform. Donning the suit requires the assistance of a buddy ensures everything is on correctly because if worn improperly it could result in major injury or even death if CBR agents leak through the suit during a real-world attack.
After donning their gear and selecting an adequate site for decontamination operations, survey teams are sent to the selected area to ensure it is clear of any contamination. Once an "all clear" is determined, the remaining personnel are able to move into the area and begin the site set up. Establishing an effective site layout requires rapid planning and decision making.
"Being able to plot the site quickly and accurately is an important task," said Steelworker 1st Class Michelle Wheeler, from Chattanooga, Tennessee. "We completed the plotting hastily, and we were able to give the directions and pass messages to the rest of the teams with ease."
A decontamination site is made up of multiple stations for equipment and personnel to move through. The stations include an entry control point to control vehicle and personnel flow, a vehicle wash down station to remove vehicle contamination, a MOPP gear exchange for personnel to receive new MOPP suits and an assembly area for personnel to rendezvous and continue their mission.
"Overall our teams performed very well," said Lt. j.g. Jannett Susberry, from Chicago, Illinois. "Our training scenarios in preparation for this were different than what we had to do today, but it gave us the ability to show our flexibility and knowledge in our field of operations."
CBR readiness is a mission skill set the Seabees hope to never have to use, but can be counted on to perform in worst case scenarios. The threat of weapons of mass destruction to our operating forces is real and readiness is essential.
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