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Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Mathew S. Sievert, a Marine with the Combined Anti-Armor Team 1, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, treats a simulated casualty while wearing a gas mask, March 14. The 31st MEU continues to prepare for potential humanitarian assistance in support of Operation Tomodachi in mainland Japan. Marines and sailors of the 31st MEU are making preparations for disaster relief efforts after an 8.9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan causing widespread damage. The 31st MEU is heading to Japan to be ready to provide support if called upon.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Garry J. Welch

Marines broaden ability to support Operation Tomodachi

17 Mar 2011 | Lance Cpl. Garry J. Welch

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit is known around the world for its ability to react to various contingencies at any time.

In preparation for possible missions, the Marines of the 31st MEU are being given classes about the possible hazards they may encounter, and what can be done about them. Classes today involved training for situations involving residual radiation, held as service members of the MEU are headed to Japan prepared to assist where directed.

“During the classes, Marines are being taught about radiological reconnaissance, exposure guidelines and decontamination,” said Cpl. Justin V. Devendorf, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist team leader with the 31st MEU. “During the class, the main things we are trying to do are take away some of the myths and mysteries about radiation, and ensure everyone present has a thorough understanding of what its effects are.”

He went on to say after Marines complete the class, they will have enough knowledge to safely and effectively operate in a contaminated area, without putting their health at risk.

“The Marines were taught how to use a dosimeter, which tells the user the amount of radiation they are being exposed to,” said Lance Cpl. Joel A. Cisco, a CBRN defense specialist with 31st MEU. “We also taught them about what levels of exposure are safe and what levels are not, so based on the dosimeters readings, they will know if levels are becoming too high to safely be around.”

In addition to educating Marines onboard the USS Essex (LHD 2) about operating in a radioactive environment, CBRN defense specialists with the 31st MEU are capable of survey missions on the ground if called upon. “If we are sent into a radioactive zone we can help determine what areas are contaminated, and if there are low or high levels,” said Devendorf.

At this point, no service member with the 31st MEU has been exposed to any type of radiation due to the ongoing situation in mainland Japan.

“In the event that someone is contaminated, we have multiple capabilities to be able to treat and de-contaminate them,” said Sgt. Kyle O. Mills, CBRN assessment and consequence management non-commissioned officer in charge.

Mills also explained the protective equipment being issued to MEU personnel will adequately protect them from any kind of CBRN contamination they may come into contact with.

“This equipment has been tested and used in contaminated environments and I am extremely confident that when used properly, this equipment will protect anyone from any kind of hazard they may come in contact with,” said Mills.

Regardless of the mission the CBRN defense specialists are given, they remain ready to respond to keep the Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU safe and secure while they accomplish whatever task may be assigned.

The 31st MEU continues to prepare for potential humanitarian assistance/disaster relief efforts in support of Operation Tomodachi, after an earthquake and tsunami struck mainland Japan March 11.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit