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Soldiers, firefighters train together for chemical incident response

By Season Osterfeld | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | December 08, 2017

     Soldiers of the 774th Ordnance Company, 242nd Ordnance Battalion, 71st Ordnance Group (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), and Fort Riley Fire and Emergency Services conducted chemical incident response training Nov. 29 at the Fire Department Training Site at Camp Funston.

     “We’ve got guys that are training to become team leaders,” said Sgt. 1st Class Geoff Dewitt, 774th Ord. Co. “They’re going to be running a chemical type incident. (That’s) any type of explosion hazard that incorporates chemicals. It’s our job to take care of that explosive hazard and then the chemicals are passed off to a tech escort or a regional response team.”

     In their scenario, a bunker had collapsed and reduced to a pile of rubble. Tucked into the side of that rubble was a leaking landmine. A team of three Soldiers from the 774th Ord. Co. went into the contaminated area to investigate. During their search, they relied information to their unit’s research team, which partnered up with the FRFES research to identify the fluid leaking from the landmine and develop a proper approach to remove and clean up the ordnance.

     “Today was basically a two part sequence of events,” said William Hadley, assistant chief of operations, FRFES. “We did a dry run because it was the first time we worked with EOD, so everyone is on the same page as to what everyone’s duties and responsibilities are. We’ll marry up with them any time they have an ordnance that might be leaking a military chemical agent that could possibly contaminate their personnel, they don’t have the (decontamination) capabilities. So that’s where the fire department would come in and work with them.”

     Firefighters from Fire Station 3 set up the hazardous materials decontamination site while the Soldiers established a perimeter around the contaminated area and worked to remove the danger. When the Soldiers exited the contaminated area, they entered the decontamination site where they underwent three stages of washes and received assistance removing their contaminated suits from the firefighters.

     In a real world situation, EOD would call fire and medical services to have them on standby and ready to take action. By training together, they’re able to understand one another’s assets and capabilities, which would make the situation go faster and smoother, Dewitt said.

     “It’s a natural partnership,” he said. “We’re going to use them in the real world, so let’s train with them … This way we understand their capabilities and they understand what we do. If we ever go into a real world situation where we’re using each other, we already understand each other’s capabilities and we’re able to put our best foot forward and get the job done.”

       Dewitt said he came up with the idea for joint training when he learned FRFES was reactivating their hazmat team.

      “One of the fireman within their department had let me know that they are standing back up their hazmat team and in real world, when we go down on any type of incident really, we make sure that fire and medical are on scene before we do anything dangerous and on these specifically, depending on what assets are in the area, we would like use a fire department hazmat team to come (decontaminate) us as well as our equipment,” he said.

      Having the time to train together and building a stronger relationship between the EOD and FRFES team was a great success for both sides, Hadley said.

     “Our greatest accomplishment was just getting to work with the EOD guys — what their roles and responsibilities will be with this, who their players are going to be that would link up with me, with our research and then what their procedures are as far as going in and mitigating the device and then making it safe and getting their personnel out safe,” he said.

      Hadley said these training events can make the difference between an incident going smooth or turning into a problem.

      “Joint training is very valuable with limited assets that every organization has,” he said. “Every unit has a different function, a different responsibility, so coming out and training before an incident happens hopefully will work out any of the bugs or any of the problems to where the incident can be stabilized and returned to normal as quickly as possible.”