BSA Maintenance Company NBC Protection Battle Drill

by CPT Peter J. Ramirez, Maintenance Company O/C, Goldminer Team, NTC

Commander's Intent and CCIR
Table of Contents
Road to War (180 Days Out)

The maintenance company was busy fixing radios in the communications-electronics shop; the automotive section was replacing engines in vehicles; the technical supply section was downloading the MSB Class IX push; and the shop office was processing maintenance disks and preparing to send more repair parts to the unit maintenance collection points (UMCPs). The BCT was busy building combat power for the defensive battle they knew they would be fighting. It was a partly cloudy day without any wind in the Mojave Desert. Suddenly, without warning, there was a hugh explosion. A few soldiers continued to work oblivious to any type of reaction. A couple of soldiers saw what was happening and looked away, thinking the explosion would not affect them. Several soldiers ducked behind vehicles. Other soldiers donned their protective garments and assumed mission-oriented protective posture (MOPP) Level 4 gear. Even so, the few in MOPP 4 had difficulties because they put their garments on wrong and did not conduct buddy checks. No one sounded an audible or visual alarm. Those that survived were overwhelmed by the immense tasks of buddy-aid, CASEVAC, starting M256 Chemical Agent Detector Kits, and reporting. The company had not rehearsed actions on contact, thus causing confusion as to who does what, when, and how. The base direct support maintenance company for the BCT was decimated, suffering 65 litter-urgent casualties, thus becoming combat ineffective and a combat detractor instead of a combat multiplier. Were American soldiers enduring extreme hardship and death because they could not prevent an attack? No, these soldiers endured extreme hardship and death because they were not prepared.

American soldiers expect their non-commissioned officer to be the best soldier in the unit, and they expect even more from their officers. In the BSA defense or in the defense of CSS soldiers, reaction to a chemical attack must be a battle drill. The chemical threat does not discriminate; the private to the commander must be versed with his actions and equipment. Instinctive and rehearsed actions with every section reacting to standard on each task in a sequential order will allow the maintenance company to overcome a chemical threat and continue to be a combat multiplier.

In the previous scenario, the command post radio operator was not trained sufficiently on his task. The maintenance company normally monitors three nets (BDE command/A&L, BN command, and company command). Although the radio operator heard the words STRIKWARN on the nets, he was unaware/untrained to take the grid and IMMEDIATELY plot it. As a result, the company had early warning, but did not capitalize on information flow. One might argue higher headquarters could plot and identify possible target areas; however, this would incur added time, and units monitoring the net may ignore warnings despite having units in a downwind hazard. The unit needed automask criteria to act so that even without prior warning, soldiers are able to perform correctly given the proper THREATCON levels daily. In this scenario, soldiers lost precious time trying to get into MOPP 4 because they did not act instinctively. And, those few soldiers who remained were overwhelmed and untrained in how to perform tasks in MOPP, how to get out of MOPP 4 correctly, report, and account for those soldiers who had succumbed to the attack.

The maintenance company can survive a chemical attack and continue to support the BCT. They can put individual tasks together in a sequential order the unit can understand, rehearse, and execute. After all, the tasks to be performed to standard are found in Skill Level 1 and Skill Level 2-4 SMCT. PCIs, prior to departing home stations and upon entering theater of operations, will solve many problems immediately. Once the attack starts, soldiers should instinctively follow the rehearsed plan -- hope is not a plan.

a. Stop Breathing. Obviously the first step. It will prevent many soldiers from ingesting any more of the suspected hazard.

b. Mask. Give the alarm both orally and visually. Seek shelter. Assume MOPP 4 within the standards (time and wear of apparel) of CTT Level I. Self-decontaminate exposed skin using M258A1/M291 Decontamination Kit and perform self-aid if necessary. Soldiers and leaders must be able to survive initial attack to continue any other mission.

c. Perform buddy checks to ensure all soldiers have donned their protective garments correctly, thus preventing further casualties.

d. Perform buddy aid. Rehearsals play critical roles now because the soldiers will know immediately how to treat and where to take casualties.

e. Sections must get accountability and report to the CP immediately. Company goes to their communications (hot loop or FM) procedures for information dissemination. Sections should take all orders from the CP at this point. Accountability of soldiers also means those MSB soldiers downloading Class IX at TSO, those soldiers dropping off disks at the shop office, and other soldiers who might be in the unit's battlespace. Submit NBC-1 reports.

f. Start M256 Kit to help identify agent -- best if done in teams of two. Do not roll up MOPP suit to look at a watch. Check M9 paper. Use M8 paper to check for liquid contamination. Get your Chemical Agent Monitors (CAMs) out.

g. CP can track using prepared sheets for BDA and M256 Kit performance. One technique to track M256 Kits was to track right on the sector sketch in different colors denoting first, second, and third M256 Kits. This gives the commander or next person in charge (if they are not familiar with unit layout) a visual of where the unit stands.

h. Every soldier and leader needs to accommodate the hydration plan now. Soldiers not involved in working CASEVAC, M256 Kits, or buddy aid need to stay calm and be patient. Company NBC specialists need to be recommending work/rest cycles to the commander. Physical abilities will degrade quickly while in MOPP 4. Soldiers can count on a perspiration rate of about 1 1/2 quarts of water per hour per FM 3-4.

i. The CP should be receiving sampling/detecting results from sections and will be calling the results to the BN.

j. If in a BN configuration, only the BN commander can give the unmasking order. If in a company defense, then the company commander can give the unmasking procedure order. Remember that the unit needs two consecutive negative readings from a M256 sampler/detector and each test takes approximately 20 minutes.

k. Unmasking procedures should be conducted after all methods of agent detection have failed to indicate any agent. Train the CP soldiers on proper reporting procedures. The soldiers should not say M256 Kit results are "All Clear" especially on the FM nets -- this causes confusion for those other units not paying attention. Instead, teach them how to properly and accurately report the results of the M256 Kit. When the unmasking procedure order comes, ensure the sections have already predetermined who they will order to unmask. Unmasking procedures when you use M256 Kits will take 15 minutes. Unmasking procedures without using M256 Kit will take approximately 35 minutes.

Mask Removal with M256A1/M256A2 Kits (15 min).

1. After checking with two consecutive M256A1 or M256A2 Kits, results are negative.

2. Senior person selects one or two soldiers. Recommend two or more. Have them -

  • Move to a shady place.
  • Unmask for 5 minutes.
  • Clear and reseal their masks.

3. Observe them for 10 minutes.

4. If no symptoms appear, report results to CP for the commander to make a decision based on all results or to report to higher headquarters.

5. Watch for delayed symptoms.

6. Have first-aid available.

Reference: FM 3-4/STP 21-24.

Without M256A1/M256A2 Kits (35 min).

1. Senior person selects one or two soldiers. Recommend two or more.

2. Move to shady place.

3. Have soldiers -

  • Take deep breath, hold it, and break seal.
  • Keep eyes open for 15 seconds.
  • Clear and reseal their masks.

4. Observe them for 10 minutes.

  • Break seal on mask and take two to three breaths.
  • Reseal and clear their masks.

5. Observe them for 10 minutes.

6. If there are no symptoms, unmask for 5 minutes and then reseal mask.

7. If no symptoms appear after 10 minutes, report results to CP, for the commander to make a decision based on all results or for CP to call higher.

8. Watch for delayed symptoms.

9. Have first-aid available.

Reference: FM 3-4/STP 21-24.

l. After the company reports unmasking results to battalion, the company has to wait until BN gives the "ALL CLEAR." BN may have identified a hazard the company does not know about yet.

It is four days later and the maintenance company is hard at work building combat power and pushing critical Class IX parts. This time the radio operator has task, purpose, and method. In addition, the commander and 1SG went over the steps they wanted the company to take, gave a deadline for rehearsals, and checked. The radio operator immediately sounds the alarm upon hearing the STRIKWARN from BDE to BN in the company CP. The company CP NCOIC answers the BN guidons' call already in mask. The maintenance soldiers automask according to the warning and guidance given by the commander. Unit leadership and soldiers are proactive in buddy checks and getting to cover before the strike. When the theater ballistic missile strikes, the maintenance company goes through their tasked drills meticulously. As a result, only six soldiers sustain injuries. The casualties survive because their buddies know that buddy aid is imperative and casualties must be treated instinctively to save American lives. Furthermore, while buddy aid was being administered, the designated nonstandard CASEVAC vehicle pulled up. The PSG had designated primary and alternate soldiers to operate vehicles and rehearsed the CASEVAC route. The soldiers knew what they had to do to survive and keep other soldiers from dying.

It is essential to prepare our soldiers correctly for success in the defense or for NBC attack. Open up the NBC Room and distribute the unit's NBC assets to the platoons and sections that are responsible for using them. Soldiers and leaders need training on the M13 DAPs, CAMs, M8/M9 paper, and M256 Kits. Unless we can survive the initial effects of chemical attacks by being trained in Skill Level 1 NBC tasks, we obviously will not be able to perform Skill Level 2 tasks and command and control the unit. Merely simulating the use of M13 or the M256 Kit or any other NBC equipment is not as good as using it. Adding realism to hands-on training coupled with task, condition, and standard are necessary Home-Station training requirements in preparing our soldiers to survive on today's and tomorrow's battlefield before the call comes.

Commander's Intent and CCIR
Table of Contents
Road to War (180 Days Out)

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