Camp Samaesan, Kingdom of Thailand -- A combined team of Thai military and U.S. Marines rush to the scene of a contaminated convoy that was caught in a radiological attack. Enemy forces ambushed military vehicles, and Royal Thai Marines lay unconscious in the street.
Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and service members with every branch of the Royal Thai military participated in a bilateral assessment-consequence management training scenario as a part of Cobra Gold 2013 here, Feb. 19.
The CBRN defense specialists fully integrated with their Thai counterparts, working in each other’s commands at the squad level. Full integration helped both sides understand each other's techniques, improve interoperability and ensure a combined capability to respond to an actual crisis.
“During Cobra Gold, we are able to share information, ideas and techniques so we can better improve our own (abilities),” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jonathan Davis, CBRN officer-in-charge with the 31st MEU. “Here, we went through every step of decontamination. It’s a very rapid process.”
Six Royal Thai Marine casualties lay beside two trucks, all in need of rescue and decontamination. Responding to the situation, the integrated U.S. and Thai CBRN team donned Level-A chemical protective suits and rushed to the scene.
The reconnaissance team assessed the area before loading the casualties onto personnel sleds for transport to a field cleaning station. The station consists of two, two-man teams with the task of quickly removing initial traces of contamination before transport to a medical facility. These teams are also in protective suits (Level C) because of the transmittable contaminates on the casualties.
“When your rip off the clothing, the skin is also contaminated, this too needs to be washed,” said Chief Petty Officer Weerasaka Boonrod, a CBRN defense specialist with the Royal Thai Navy. “When helping (the casualties) decontaminate, we have to remain in the suit, ensuring our own safety.”
The recon and decontamination teams proceeded to a washing station after all six casualties were successfully decontaminated. At this station, another team uses buckets of chemically treated water and high pressure hoses to help cleanse the initial response teams.
While this final decontamination process for CBRN personnel ensues, a mitigation team attacks the contaminated vehicle with scrub brushes and power sprayers. In less than 15 minutes, a radiological contaminated, 5-ton military vehicle is clean and safe for use.
From start to finish, the bilateral force tested every aspect of their training in CBRN defense. The detailed scenario provided for realistic application of assessment, mitigation and decontamination procedures.
“During Cobra Gold, we get to train hand in hand with the Thais to get a realistic experience of a CBRN attack,” Lance Cpl. Aaron Mendoza, a CBRN defense specialist for the 31st MEU, and a native of Whittier, Calif. “We really get to value our jobs, whether it be mitigating, assessing, or decontaminating, we really understand how important each section is to the entire force.”
Exercises such as Cobra Gold allow the 31st MEU to collaborate with partner countries to achieve mutual security goals, address shared concerns, and continue to develop relationships.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.