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The threat or use of NBC agents places an additional burden on watercraft unit commanders and watercraft operations in general. They must be prepared to take measures to minimize casualties or loss and damage to equipment, and to continue operations to the greatest extent possible in this environment.


The threat of NBC attack has caused the US Army to revise its fighting doctrine. AirLand Battle doctrine provides the means to reduce risk by dispersing forces, rapidly bringing these forces together to attack when the opportunities for offensive operations develop, conducting the operation, and then dispersing the forces. Not presenting a large target until it is close to enemy elements and the likelihood of an NBC attack minimizes risk.

Although this doctrine is most effective when dealing with combat forces, those commanders operating logistical activities in the corps rear or at EAC, must disperse their activities and elements of their activities to the fullest extent possible. Doing so defeats or diminishes possible impacts of NBC threat on their operations.

Nuclear attack presents a variety of problems to watercraft unit operations. The blast and shockwave will destroy or damage facilities and craft in the immediate vicinity of the strike. Debris and other items floating or submerged in the water after the strike can damage craft or impair operations, and radioactivity will make some areas impassable or inaccessible for continued operations. The rear area logistics operations areas, ports, terminals, and LOTS sites will be primary targets. The enemy will try to destroy or contaminate these areas to eliminate or disrupt our ability to sustain logistics support to the combat forces.

Chemical and biological attacks cause unique problems as well. The threat of chemical or biological attacks causes significant problems associated with fear, apprehension, and the disruptive or devastating effects of having to operate in protective gear on a sustained basis. Chemical or biological contamination of watercraft or cargos drastically reduces productivity; these craft and cargos must be decontaminated. The time required to decontaminate and the probable shortages of decontamination supplies and equipment will cause a shortage of craft or vessels to sustain cargo operations.


The efficiency of NBC countermeasures depends on the promptness with which they are initiated. Preattack protection through early warning and preventive measures taken by the operators and crews of watercraft and vessels lessens the impact and saves time when it is time to decontaminate. Before the attack or when an attack is initiated, the crew quickly dons protective clothing and gear; secures all doors, hatches, and vents; and in the case of watercraft in a port or LOTS operation, disperses as much as possible. Larger vessels' crews will take the same measures and at the same time put the vessel out to sea. Crew members take cover inside the craft or vessel. On vessels with a washdown system, they activate the system.

After the attack, hosing down at a designated decontamination site or washing down those vessels with a washdown system are the only counter-measures available to decontaminate the entire craft or vessel's exterior surfaces. Decontamination operations should be planned and conducted so that none of the agent reaches heavy-traffic points or other sensitive areas. The agent and wash water should flow as much as possible into the sea. No decontaminated surface or area should be assumed to be completely free of hazard until suitable tests show negative results.

Only under dire circumstances is contaminated cargo delivered to the ship, beach, or other designated areas following an attack. Contaminated cargo would normally be delivered only to contaminated areas for decontamination or disposal.

Personnel remain in MOPP 4 until the craft or vessel and the personnel are completely decontaminated at a designated area or decontamination site.


Watercraft unit commanders should incorporate NBC SOPs in their unit SOPs. Unit and crew preparedness should include exercises and drills that require recognition and knowledge of NBC alarms, donning of protective clothing and gear, and operating in MOPP 1 through MOPP 4 modes for given periods to acclimate personnel to the rigors and difficulties of sustained operations in this gear. Unit, watercraft, and vessel NBC equipment must be maintained in a high state of readiness at all times, and personnel must be familiar with its operation.

NBC SOP checklists should be used on the watercraft and vessels. As a minimum they should contain those crew tasks and actions to be taken before, during, and after an NBC attack.

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