UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


The Light Infantry Chemical Officer
and the National Training Center (NTC) Experience

by 1LT Sean D. Lovett, Light Inf CHEMO, 172d Inf Bde, Alaska

Skills and Development of the Battle Staff
Table of Contents
Company Resupply TTP

Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) warfare is perhaps the most terrifying aspect of warfare. On emotional and intellectual levels, most people can accept casualties resulting from bullets, artillery, bombs and other forms of conventional weapons. When it comes to NBC, the same people are almost devastatingly terrified. When one is faced with something that threatens him, there are two reactions, face the danger or deny its existence, the old "fight or flight" principal. Unfortunately, in the case of the light infantry, it is more often the latter response instead of the former.

Every light infantry battalion is assigned one 74A Chemical Officer to its staff. By doctrine, the chemical officer is a special staff officer who works directly for the battalion commander. However, by practice, the Chemical Officer (CHEMO) is assigned to the office of the S3 Operations Officer. More often than not, the CHEMO becomes swamped with administrative duties and a large variety of additional duties instead of those for which he was trained. For most light infantry CHEMOs, chemical training becomes little more than a vague memory of the Chemical Officer Basic Course (COBC). NBC proves to stand for "Nobody Cares," that is, until a rotation at the NTC begins to loom on the horizon.

As a light infantry chemical officer in Alaska, I found myself in much the same situation as I have just described. Much of my home-station time is spent with a variety of administrative and operational projects that have absolutely nothing to do with NBC. Indeed, the only regular NBC-related duties that I have are concerned with turning in the monthly Chemical Defense Equipment Report. This factor, combined with the extreme environmental conditions of Alaska, and the standard light infantry anti-NBC attitude served to provide little to no opportunity to hone any NBC-related skills prior to deployment to the NTC. I discovered that I would have to completely re-educate myself in the field of NBC Warfare.

When I first began my search for information concerning NBC operations in light infantry battalions at the NTC, I found few resources. Outside of occasional Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP), the few resources that I found concerned general NBC operations. None of these could be tailored to specifically aid the light infantry battalion CHEMO.

The best resource that I found in preparing for a rotation at NTC was speaking with CHEMOs that have gone through previous rotations. In most of their situations, they were each forced to create, from nothing, their own systems and solutions to the challenges posed at NTC. In each case, the systems were created just prior or during their rotation and occasionally passed to others by word of mouth.

This article provides, in written form, a starting point for the typical light infantry CHEMO to begin preparations for a rotation to NTC. The information and methods provided in this article are derived from a variety of sources including field manuals, articles, and the personal experiences of other light infantry battalion CHEMOs as well as my own. It is my hope that this article can be used as a base from which future CHEMOs learn prior mistakes and derive their own operational systems to prepare for NTC.

Common Mistakes of the Light Infantry CHEMO

There are a variety of mistakes that light infantry CHEMOS have made in the past. Most of these mistakes are a result of a lack of experience in NBC affairs, not general incompetence. The greatest single problem facing the CHEMO is his lack of NBC training and experience. Although he has graduated COBC, the light infantry CHEMO rarely practices his profession between the basic and advanced courses. More often than not, he is confronted with a chain of command that is resistant to NBC issues and prefers to keep the CHEMO busy with non-NBC-related issues. This lack of experience serves to be the greatest contributor to common NBC mistakes.

1. The MOPP Level. The mission-oriented protective posture (MOPP) level is the single NBC Issue closest to the heart of the light infantryman. The average infantryman carries an average of 60 to 75 pounds of gear. A complete Individual Chemical Equipment Package (ICE Pack) weighs approximately eight and one-half pounds. When an infantryman carries 75 pounds of gear through a hot, humid environment and then is told that he must now carry, and possibly wear, his MOPP suit, he suffers what infantry officers describe as "an emotionally significant event." Many CHEMOs become enthusiastic and excited when they are finally allowed to practice their profession. As a result, many hastily prescribe an unnecessary MOPP level that places a significant burden upon the soldiers of the battalion.

When making a MOPP analysis, several factors need to be considered, such as weather, mission, transportation and most likely time of attack. Consider the expected time of a chemical attack and prescribe the MOPP level accordingly. If the mission is an attack, consider keeping the soldier no higher than MOPP 1, if necessary. Consider whether the soldiers will be carrying their rucksacks or if arrangements have been made to transport the rucksacks (rucks) by truck to relieve them of the load. Carefully take into consideration all factors before prescribing a MOPP level. Remember: keep the infantry out of MOPP as long as possible.

2. NBC Downwind Hazard Prediction. Another area in which common mistakes are made is downwind hazard prediction. Many CHEMOs fail to realize that standard downwind hazard prediction is heavily safety oriented. Although the downwind hazard distance for most attack cases is 10 kilometers, do not hastily assume that a chemical agent will spread this entire distance. Factors, such as terrain, wind speed, and, most importantly, size of the attack, greatly affect the downwind hazard prediction.

Simple Suggestions

1. Pre-(Reception, Staging, Onward movement and Integration (RSOI) Preparations. The following is a list of preparations that must be done prior to deploying to the National Training Center:

a. Wipe Tests. Ensure that all M8 Chemical Alarms and Chemical Agent Monitors are wipe-tested and that the proper documents have been filed as proof.

b. CDE Report. Ensure that the company NBC NCOs submit a complete Chemical Defense Equipment Report (CDE) for all NBC equipment with which their company will deploy to the NTC. Keep a copy of the company CDE for your files and make a consolidated battalion-level CDE report for use during the rotation.

c. Minimum CDE Deployment List. Publish a list of the minimum amounts of NBC equipment with which each company should deploy. State how many items should be taken for a specific number of soldiers and equipment, such as one roll of M9 paper per every nine soldiers or major end item. Detail the minimum number of each item with which the company will deploy and distribute a copy to the battalion commander, company commander, company XO, and company NBC NCO.

d. NBC Tasks List. Submit a list of NBC tasks for the companies to focus upon to the battalion commander. This task list should consist of basic NBC tasks such as MOPP gear exchange, use of M256 Kit, and use of Nerve Anti-Agent Kit. The NBC tasks should be simple and focus upon reinforcing skills learned during basic common task training.

2. The Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP). To create a viable product, the CHEMO must conduct a detailed cross-talk with the Battalion S2 to discuss issues such as enemy NBC weapons, delivery capabilities, tactics of employment, and likelihood of employment. Once this has been completed, he must suggest to the Battalion Commander an appropriate MOPP level to match the threat.

There are a variety of aids used in assessing the potential NBC threat and NBC vulnerability. The best current single method to conduct both of these assessments is the utilization of the NBC Threat Analysis Worksheet and the Chemical Vulnerability Worksheet. Both of these forms are products originally produced by the U.S. Army Chemical School. Both worksheets ask a series of questions whose answers have an assigned numerical value. Once all of the numbers have been added together, the total determines the likelihood of an enemy NBC attack and the degree of vulnerability to an NBC attack faced by friendly forces. I have personally found these products to be quite useful and I highly recommend them to any CHEMO for use.

To supplement, or update an NBC threat analysis, it is useful to keep an ongoing log of NBC-related events. This log would be kept to maintain a log of NBC events such as the sighting or movement of chemical munitions, a change of enemy MOPP status, or any other event that can have an effect on NBC warfare. The log can be used to justify an update of the unit MOPP status, enemy NBC threat, and show a developing pattern in the enemy NBC stature. This log can be kept on a standard DA Form 1594 or a modified version of the form such as the example shown in Figure 1.

DTG Rec. Rpt FromActivity

Figure 1. Sample NBC Event Log.

A final product that can be utilized by the CHEMO should be a Chemical Target Worksheet listing units, terrain features, and other locations of interest to be targeted by the enemy (Figure 2). Similar to a Fire Support Target Sheet, the Chemical Target Worksheet should list the target grid, description, type of agent to be used, and what interest the enemy has in focusing on that target. The worksheet can be included in the NBC Annex of the Operations Order as an appendix and can serve to give commanders in the field warning of any potential chemical strike within their area of operations. This worksheet can help commanders plan for future NBC reconnaissance operations.

Target GridTarget DescriptionAgent TypePurpose

Figure 2. Sample Chemical Target Worksheet.

3. NBC Tracking. One of the first tracking systems that a CHEMO should develop is a way of accurately tracking Chemical Downwind Messages (CDMs) that are received from brigade headquarters. More often than not, CDMs become lost in the paper shuffle that occurs when messages are passed from one Battlefield Operating System (BOS) representative to another in the battalion Tactical Operations Center (TOC). It helps greatly when the CDMs are consolidated in one location for easy access and reference.

The best way to track CDM reports is to create a CDM Tracking Sheet (Figure 3). As the example shows, this sheet is formatted to fit the CDM format. All three lines are included along with the effective dates and times. All one has to do is plug in the numbers exactly as they are called over the radio. Above each column is the explanation for the corresponding numbers. Anyone can pick up this form and easily understand the information without having to refer to a copy of GTA 3-6-8 or FM 3-7, Commander's NBC Handbook.

Sample CDM Tracking Sheet

Figure 3. Sample CDM Tracking Sheet

As the pace of battle gains speed, it becomes more important to keep an accurate picture of the effects of NBC warfare upon the battlefield. This becomes most important for battalion and brigade CSS assets as well as any follow-on forces that follow the light battalion through a contaminated battlefield. The importance of tracking NBC attacks can be easily compared to the tracking of obstacles, such as mines and wire, remaining behind following a battle.

Tracking sites of NBC contamination should be done in two ways. The most easily recognizable tracking method is the drawing of contaminated sites directly on the TOC tracking map. This is the easiest for commanders to identify especially when the type of agent and time of attack are clearly marked on the map as well.

The second form of tracking NBC attacks is by the use of an NBC Strike Log (Figure 4). All NBC strikes are logged on the form to include important data such as the attack grid, date and time of the attack and the reception of the report, and winds peed and direction. Although the pace of the battle might lead one to forget to utilize this log, it can serve as a useful tool to analyze the enemy's employment method for NBC weaponry, as well as an obvious reference to past enemy NBC weapons employment. The division NBC Center utilizes a similar form.

Report No.GridDTG of AttackOBSV and Loc.Ag. Type

Figure 4. Sample NBC Strike Log

4. NBC Plotting. The best advice for NBC plotting is also the oldest. Plot a downwind hazard prediction for each case of employment tailored to the scale of map used in your TOC. Plot these predictions on overlay material and properly label them for each case. When a strike occurs, place these overlays on the map with the corresponding downwind direction. It saves a great deal of time and provides the quickest warning to friendly units. This technique is taught to every new CHEMO in COBC. Also keep a copy of the Downwind Hazard Prediction Flowchart in a file for easy reference.

5. NBC Attack Confirmation. During the battle, it is not unusual for soldiers in the field to misinterpret and event as a chemical attack. Often soldiers will interpret yellow smoke, in NTC ROE signifying a FASCAM minefield, for a chemical attack. Others will see standard white smoke used for obscuration and believe it to be a chemical attack. The most difficult thing for a light infantry CHEMO to do is to obtain confirmation of a chemical attack.

When a report of a chemical attack comes over the radio, the first question that should be asked is how was the attack confirmed? Ensure that the soldiers confirmed the attack with the use of M8 paper, M9 paper, M256 kit, or the M8 Alarm. Although this system seems self evident, it is more often than not overlooked. Having a reliable confirmation of an attack or a false alarm can prevent the loss of a unit's momentum by prematurely placing soldiers in MOPP4.

6. Organization. Keep all of your NBC forms and files in an easily accessible binder or folder for easy access and organization. During the battle, papers get shuffled, and information becomes confused as reports are received over the radio. Keeping your materials located in one complete binder will not only make them easily accessible but also will prevent them from becoming easily lost.


There are no secrets to performing the job of the light infantry CHEMO while deployed to the NTC. The methods and advice described in this article are far from the only ones available. Much of what has been described has been learned from the trial and error experiences of many CHEMOs as well as standard field manuals. Techniques and procedures are definitely not limited to what has been presented within these pages.

In the past, there has been very little published to aid the light infantry battalion CHEMO in the performance of his duties. For many CHEMOs, the performance of their NBC duties has been constant trial and error. By the time they create a viable system, it is already time to redeploy to their home station. Through this process, a large amount of time is wasted in just trying to get the proverbial horse out of the starting gate. This article has presented a viable starting point for the light infantry battalion CHEMO to begin preparing for a rotation at NTC and maximize the amount of learning time available during the rotation.

Skills and Development of the Battle Staff
Table of Contents
Company Resupply TTP

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list