JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
The U.S. Army North Civil Support Training Activity, or CSTA, certified the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear, or CBRN, training of Soldiers from the 3rd Platoon, 68th Engineer Company from Fort Hood, Texas during a two-night urban search and rescue exercise at the San Antonio Firefighter Training Facility Oct. 22-23.
CSTA oversees the certification program’s training exercises which prepare units to detect chemical agents, conduct decontamination procedures and provide first aid to exposed people - who are referred to as casualties - while operating in rigorous CBRN conditions.
“This training is an eye opener with lots of detail and helps us to be ready physically and mentally,” said 1st Lt. Michelle Kokoski, the platoon leader. “Army North provides realistic training to find our weaknesses and strengths.”
CSTA requires Soldiers to train as they would respond – with the same protective gear and equipment they would use in a real-world situation where they could be exposed to dangerous CBRN agents.
The CBRN training tested the platoon on multiple perishable skills that need to be regularly exercised in the event the unit is deployed within the homeland as part of the Defense CBRN Response Force. CSTA evaluators gauged the effectiveness of the unit’s response procedures and how they adapted to the ever-changing conditions.
“This training is important to the 3rd platoon because they are currently on mission supporting the Defense CBRN Response Force,” said James Larsen, Chief of the Urban Search & Rescue Training Team, Civil Support Training Activity, U.S. Army North.
An assessment team jumpstarted the exercise by entering a suspected contaminated area to detect possible chemical agents, assess and report damage to critical infrastructure, and identify any possible chemical casualties who needed first aid and then extract them from the area. Next, an engineer team donned personal protective equipment and entered the area with prepared structural equipment to stabilize the infrastructure to protect response personnel and causalities for further rescue efforts.
During the second night of the exercise, Soldiers surveyed a simulated train wreck with causalities contaminated by a chemical agent. Similar to the first night, the team was tasked with detecting the agent, securing the affected area, and providing first aid to the casualties.
Extraction was more difficult because casualties were trapped in vehicles crushed during the train wreck. Casualties also had to be moved to a decontamination site to receive additional screening and treatment and to avoid the further spread of the agent.
“The realistic training is important because it teaches us how to help civilians and save lives if an event like this happens,” said Spc. Alfredo Hernandez, a carpentry and masonry specialist in the platoon. “We train to manage the situation… no matter what the circumstances dictate.”
Army North’s CSTA provides CBRN training year-round to soldiers all across the country to ensure that they are prepared to spring into action as part of the Defense CBRN Response Force.