Nuclear weapons cause casualties
through blast, heat, and radiation effects. They restrict terrain
by blowing down trees and buildings, starting fires, or cratering.
They may cause radiological contamination over a large area. Biological
and chemical weapons cause serious injury or death through toxic
properties. They may contaminate terrain and equipment. Effectiveness
is degraded when troops don cumbersome protective clothing and
equipment when operating in a toxic environment.
NBC defense is a balance of
three principles- avoidance, protection, and decontamination-
defend against the effects of nuclear, biological, or chemical
At theater strategic and operational
level NBC defense combines US nuclear and conventional precision
strike capability to provide our deterrent posture. If the enemy
uses NBC weapons, an effective NBC defense program gives our forces
an advantage in operational tempo. This advantage causes the enemy
to cease NBC warfare or continue the conflict on unfavorable terms.
At the tactical level of war
NBC defense enables the force to survive, fight, and win under
NBC conditions. Commanders reduce the likelihood of NBC attack
through avoidance measures. They disperse their forces and ensure
operations and communications security; harden positions to reduce
the impact of an NBC attack; detect and mark contamination; and
control the spread of contamination. When units cannot avoid contamination
or are in danger of an enemy NBC attack, they implement NBC protective
measures. Protective measures for biological and chemical hazards,
including protective mask and clothing, normally degrade force
effectiveness and erode combat power. To restore combat power
commanders decontaminate as early as possible. Immediate decon
supports individual survival. Operational decon allows temporary
reduction of protective posture. Thorough decon allows the unit
to significantly reduce protective posture. Thorough decon can
be used as a part of unit reconstitution to reduce contamination
hazards to negligible levels.
Avoiding NBC attacks and hazards
is the key to NBC defense. If forces avoid detection, they are
less likely to be targeted for attack. Therefore they will not
need to apply protection and decon. Although avoidance will not
always be possible, all forces seek ways to reduce the chances
of being contaminated. Avoiding contamination involves bypassing
contaminated areas as well as avoiding detection by the enemy.
The use of PSYOP can assist in avoidance of NBC attacks by targeting
enemy decision-makers and public opinion with the objective of
preventing NBC attacks. FMs 3-3 and 3-3-1 provides detailed guidance
on conducting contamination avoidance procedures.
NBC contamination avoidance
is absolutely critical, especially for light forces. To answer
NBC defense questions, leaders conduct risk assessments to determine
what protective measures will be directed. See FM 3-4 for detailed
information on conducting risk assessments.
During risk assessment, consult
area studies and the most recent intelligence summaries to determine
enemy NBC capabilities. Assessments provide estimates and reports
of any previous use, Enemy NBC doctrine (if any), where agents
would likely be used (for example, ambush sites, airfields, troop
concentrations), and the types of NBC weapons enemy forces could
use. How environment (for example, desert, cold weather) impacts
units and NBC weapons is also reviewed. See FMs 3-6 and 3-9 for
detailed information on the characteristics and field behavior
of NBC agents in different environments.
Decision points are identified
for implementation of the NBC defense plan. Decision points can
include elements relating to when and where to don MOPP, MOPP
level, when and where automatic masking applies, or who does NBC
recon of key templated areas. Decision points can be tied to events
such as named areas of interest (NAI), timelines, or key events.
Based on the unit situation
(static position or moving cross-country) and the chances of encountering
contamination, assessments are made as to the impact of contamination.
Degradation of unit effectiveness for various friendly courses
of action is determined, and critical tasks are identified (for
example, use of alarms, contamination marking, reporting, recon).
Protective equipment needs are also determined based on risk assessment.
Determinations are made as
to what equipment and supplies are needed; when resupply is needed;
and where supplies are packed (for example, rucksack close for
emergency use or in a resupply bundle).
Passive avoidance measures
are those that a unit takes regardless of the status of NBC warfare.
Good military tactics dictate many practices that will reduce
the impact of enemy NBC or conventional attacks. Good training,
improved positions, and dispersed forces are particularly effective
in reducing the chances of an NBC attack and reducing casualties
if an attack does occur.
Confusion, stress, and ever-present
battlefield danger place a heavy burden on soldiers' endurance,
courage, and will to win. Unit commanders improve readiness and
combat performance by providing soldiers with realistic integrated
training. They ensure that soldiers know how to protect themselves
from NBC hazards.
Camouflage and Concealment
Friendly units use measures
to counter sophisticated enemy intelligence equipment used for
infrared scanning, TV viewing, night vision, radio interception,
and direction-finding. Good OPSEC, communications security, and
electronic security protect the unit. Friendly forces use all
forms of natural concealment as well as camouflage and smoke.
Avoiding detection becomes a state of mind. Friendly forces actively
practice camouflage, noise, light, litter, and communications
discipline to avoid detection and targeting.
Units continually harden and
improve fighting positions to increase cover and protection. Recon
locates ready-made, hardened shelters, culverts, tunnels, overpasses,
caves, or built-up areas. Obscurants screen the hardening of shelters
and engineer preparation of battle positions. When using obscurants
to screen preparation of battle positions ensure that you do not
actually tip off the enemy about your defense. Use a deception
plan with multiple obscured areas to help conceal the friendly
Friendly forces frequently
require considerable space for dispersing and maneuvering. Dispersion
protects the force and makes its intentions unclear to the enemy.
Friendly forces continually analyze the effects of enemy nuclear
and chemical weapons. They attempt to avoid positions that can
be isolated by the obstacles created by these weapons. FM 101-31-2
contains guidance to determine how much a unit should disperse
to limit the impact of a nuclear attack. Dispersion decreases
the probability of a single nuclear or chemical attack destroying
the entire force. Dispersion is also a countermeasure to enemy
obscurants. However, dispersion may increase the risk that the
force may be defeated by conventional weapon systems and maneuver
forces. Many combat service support units, especially in the communications
zone (COMMZ), do not have the capability to disperse. Activities
such as combat equipment centers (CECs), Army depots, and area
support groups (ASGs) prepare for fixed site NBC defense (see
Active avoidance measures
are those taken specifically to avoid, control, or mitigate NBC
need information about contamination hazards and locations of
clean areas. They gain this information through the NBC warning
and reporting system and their own NBC recon effort. As they collect
data, they forward it to higher headquarters to help form the
overall NBC picture. If higher headquarters requires additional
information, they direct detailed surveys.
There is range of detecting
and identifying devices and kits to assist the commander in detecting
and identifying chemical hazards on the battlefield. The range
of devices and kits begins at the individual soldier with detector
paper and runs through corps and division with the M93 NBCRS (Fox).
A typical company-sized organization is equipped with the automatic
chemical alarms, chemical agent monitors, chemical agent detector
kits, and detector paper. Table 3-1 provides an overview of the
capabilities of each device or kit. NBC recon units are equipped
with sophisticated detection and identification equipment.
recon is a multi-echelon process that begins at the national level
and ranges down to alert watchfulness of each soldier. Tactically,
NBC recon is conducted as a routine part of conventional combat
operations. Recon elements check for contamination in addition
to looking for enemy activity. Units check relatively small areas
and routes of immediate interest to unit commanders. When commanders
need additional information unavailable through routine monitoring,
they direct surveys of the area of interest.
NBC recon elements organic
to corps and divisions are designed to conduct NBC recon missions.
These elements provide early warning of contamination; determine
the extent of contamination, and find clear routes of advance.
They can determine if contamination remains in an area. NBC recon
performs five critical tasks on the battlefield - detect, identify,
mark, report, and sample. There are four NBC general NBC recon
techniques - search, survey, surveillance, and sampling used during
zone, area, and route recon missions.
- Search techniques are used
to locate contaminated areas during recon operations.
- Survey techniques are used
once the contaminated area is located. The purpose of surveys
are to define the extent of the contaminated area.
- Surveillance is the systematic
observation of a specific area for indications of an NBC attack.
- Sampling is the collection
of material and environmental items to support intelligence collection
and operational requirements. These requirements include verification
that an attack occurred; identification of agents used; delivery
systems; their nation of origin; and the level of CB technology
NBC recon missions include
- Route recon.
Recon elements collect detailed information about all terrain
from which the enemy could influence movement along the route.
With accurate and timely contamination plots of a route, commanders
can avoid contamination or direct an appropriate MOPP posture.
- Area recon.
When a gap exists in NBC data, the unit obtains missing information
with area recon. The directing headquarters must specify the area
boundaries and information required. Such a directed effort might
obtain detailed information concerning the terrain or enemy activity
within a prescribed area such as a town, a ridge line, or woods.
- Zone recon.
When little is known about enemy hazards across a wide area, a
unit may direct a zone recon. This action can provide information
concerning routes, obstacles (including chemical or radiological
contamination), terrain, and enemy forces within a zone prescribed
by a boundary. Commanders assign this mission when the enemy situation
is in doubt or when they need information concerning cross-country
- Point recon. This
mission is conducted when NBC hazard information knowledge concerning
a specific terrain future (chokepoint, bridge, and so forth) or
enemy facility (NBC production or storage, and so forth) is required.
A point recon is similar to an area recon, but much more specifically
- By-pass. Recon
units rapidly locate a route around contamination during combat
operations. It is normally conducted in support of a mounted maneuver
force during an offensive mission. The contaminated area may be
located within indirect and direct fire range of enemy weapon
systems. The objective of finding a clean route around the contaminated
area is to allow the maneuver force to continue the mission in
the lowest MOPP level without disrupting the operational tempo.
a unit finds an NBC hazard, the next step is to identify the hazard.
Radiation is measured with the unit's radiac instruments. Biological
and unknown chemical agent samples must be evacuated through intelligence
channels to a laboratory facility for definitive identification.
Unit personnel detect and make preliminary identification of chemical
agents using kits authorized at squad level. They may also use
the detector paper carried by each individual.
Contamination is marked to
warn friendly personnel. Units or NBC recon teams mark all likely
entry points into the area and report contamination to higher
headquarters. The only exception is where marking would help the
enemy. In this event the hazard is reported to higher headquarters
as an unmarked contaminated area.
When a unit enters a previously
marked contaminated area, personnel check the extent of contamination
and adjusts plans as necessary. As the hazard area changes, the
unit relocates the signs. When the hazard is gone, the unit removes
the signs. The unit reports all changes to higher headquarters.
Alarms and Signals
See FMs 3-3 and 3-3-1 for
additional information on techniques and procedures. Alarms and
signals convey warning of NBC contamination. Units use easily
recognizable and reliable alarm methods to respond quickly and
correctly to NBC hazards. Standard alarms, the NBC warning and
reporting system, and contamination markers help give orderly
warning that may also require a change of MOPP level.
Vocal Alarms. The
vocal alarm for any chemical or biological hazard or attack is
the word, "Gas!" Personnel hearing the alarm will mask,
repeat the alarm, take cover as necessary, and increase MOPP level
if appropriate. Units may send the alarm by radio or telephone.
Automatic Alarms. When
an automatic chemical agent alarm sounds or flashes, the first
person to hear or see it masks and gives a vocal alarm and/or
hand-and-arm visual signal as described in FM 3-4 and STP 21-1-SMCT.
Unit personnel relay the alarm through the area by voice, signal,
telephone, or radio, if required.
Fallout Warning. The
radiological monitor warns unit personnel when the dose rate reaches
one centigray per hour. Unit personnel pass the alarm. Where mission
allows, soldiers move to shelters with increased protection until
leaders give an all-clear signal or provide directions to move.
Nonvocal Signals. Sounds
of combat may mask the vocal alarm. This is why units use other
signals to supplement the verbal warning. The SOI specifies these
other signals. Nonvocal signals include metal-on-metal and specified
horn or siren patterns. Units must ensure nonvocal signals are
included in tactical SOPs.
Visual Signals. Visual
signals replace or supplement sonic alarms when sound is lost
in battlefield noise or the situation does not permit sound signals.
Personnel may use the standard hand-and-arm signal to direct masking.
Other visual signals include colored smoke or flares. The SOP
or SOI specifies the exact meaning of these signals.
All-Clear Signal. Leaders
give the all-clear signal after the test for contamination proves
negative and unmasking procedures are completed. They pass this
signal by word of mouth through the chain of command. Unmasking
should be conducted, if possible, by company- size units. Elements
operating more than 500 meters from the rest of the unit should
conduct separate unmasking procedures. Field behavior of chemical
agents may cause different concentrations of agent at several
places within a unit area.
Warning and Reporting System.
The NBCWRS provides a means
to rapidly send reports on NBC attacks. The reports inform friendly
units of clean areas and possible contamination. For the NBCWRS
to be effective, units must send information on first use by the
fastest communications means available. First use reports require
FLASH precedence. Units send subsequent information by any reliable
To maintain freedom of action,
friendly forces can bypass contamination or practice mitigation
techniques. Mitigation techniques include leaving nonessential
forces behind, encapsulating personnel and critical items, and
covering equipment. If friendly forces are already in contamination,
they can control exposure by relocating to an uncontaminated area
and decontaminating as appropriate.
is the preferred method of limiting or avoiding contamination.
Soldiers mask when passing near but do not normally require MOPP.
Additionally, they avoid contamination on vehicles and equipment.
The unit may don protective clothing for a bypass to ensure freedom
of maneuver in an emergency situation.
Leaving Personnel and Equipment.
When the mission requires
entering a contaminated area, the unit should leave non-critical
personnel and equipment to prevent exposing the entire unit to
contamination. In some cases, the unit will setup a decon site
for use on return.
carried outside a vehicle can become contaminated. Units should
place vital equipment inside combat vehicles or shelters. Personnel
should assume an appropriate level of MOPP or enter shelters.
Shielding reduces exposure to radiological hazards.
may cover equipment with tarps, plastic bags, or earth. If possible,
personnel leave equipment in its original container (such as an
unit commander should take immediate action to determine the type
of hazard. For skin contact hazards the unit must take appropriate
action to protect personnel and limit contamination spread. The
commander will analyze the situation to determine if relocation
to an uncontaminated alternate location is necessary and/or possible.
In preparing for unit relocation,
NBC recon teams locate contamination along proposed routes. The
commander selects a route that provides freedom of maneuver and
minimizes contact with contamination. Sound tactical movements
are conducted according to METT-T.
A unit may become contaminated
because of direct NBC attack or because mission causes them to
enter a contaminated area. In either case NBC protection is an
integral part of operations. Avoidance and protection are closely
related. Techniques that work for avoidance also provide protection.
However, there are four broad groups of activity that comprise
protective measures. They are hardening positions and protecting
personnel, assuming MOPP, reacting to attack, and using collective
protection. FM 3-4 provides detailed guidance on conducting NBC
Hardening includes anything
that makes a unit more resistant to the effects of enemy strikes.
This reduced vulnerability makes a unit a less lucrative target.
Hardening includes readying positions, readying personnel, and
positioning alarms and monitors.
Readying the Positions
Hardening of positions includes
all actions to make them more resistant to the blast effects of
conventional or nuclear munitions, to the heat and radiation of
nuclear weapons, and to the contamination of biological or chemical
weapons. Foxholes and bunkers with strong waterproof overhead
cover provide excellent shelter. Tanks and other armored vehicles
in defilade are good NBC shelters. Existing natural and man-made
features, such as caves, culverts, tunnels, and empty storage
bunkers, offer expedient shelter. Shelters do not always adequately
protect against vapor hazards. In fluid battlefield situations
each unit establishes a command post in a protected or built-up
area. They provide maximum protective shelter for off-duty personnel
and critical equipment. Route recon locates handy shelters, such
as culverts and overpasses. Commanders schedule stops near these
Readying the Personnel
Ordinary garments offer significant
protection from flash burns of a nuclear explosion. Under BNW
conditions personnel use gloves, scarves, and headgear to protect
normally exposed portions of the body. Under the threat of enemy
chemical or biological attacks leaders ensure protective equipment
is prepared and readily available. They ensure that the unit maintains
good field sanitation and personal hygiene. Additionally, leaders
ensure soldier readiness to operate in special environments (desert,
cold weather, NBC). FMs 3-3-1, 3-4, and 3-5 provide detailed information
on operations in these environments.
Positioning Alarms and Monitors
The NBCWRS warns units of
attacks in other areas. Units position organic systems to detect
chemical contamination or nuclear fallout. They position alarms
upwind of friendly positions. Unit personnel place detector paper
in positions that give maximum exposure to chemical agents. Leaders
disperse radiological monitoring teams for best coverage of potential
When moving, the commander
determines the protection required for drivers and crew members.
Alarms should be mounted on the exterior of the upwind vehicle.
Although this method will not give the vehicle occupants advance
warning of a hazard (since they are collocated with the alarm),
it will provide verification of a hazard to the lead vehicle's
masked personnel. These personnel can pass the alarm to other
elements who will pass through that area. They will also observe
the area closely for liquid contamination.
MOPP is the flexible use of
protective clothing and equipment that balances protection with
performance degradation. Wearing MOPP can cause heat and mental
stress and reduce efficiency. The higher the MOPP level, the more
protection it provides, but the more it degrades performance.
The commander must weigh the needs of individual protection against
unit efficiency. MOPP is based on threat, temperature, work rate,
Commanders must balance the
probable number of heat casualties in MOPP against the possible
number of chemical casualties among unprotected troops. Heat casualties
are likely when soldiers in MOPP gear are performing hard, physical
work under stress of combat. Leaders establish an initial MOPP
level before the mission and adjust it as the situation changes
or new intelligence is received. Leaders must also consider the
serviceability and protection offered by overgarments. For example,
the battle dress overgarment (BDO) should be exchanged within
24 hours after exposure to liquid chemical agent. See FM 3-4 for
further information on individual protective equipment.
Using MOPP requires judgment.
Leaders constantly balance the amount of protection needed against
the urgency of the mission. As MOPP level increases, mission efficiency
decreases. Mission and performance degradation are unavoidable
while in MOPP. Physical skills degraded include: fine and gross
motor skills, vision, hearing, and stamina.
Wearing protective gloves
reduces ability to grasp tools and manipulate controls. Wearing
MOPP slows movement. Wearing the mask reduces visual acuity and
peripheral vision. Wearing the hood reduces hearing.
Although some mission degradation
is unavoidable, acclimation and training help reduce performance
degradation. MOPP impacts the better trained individual soldier's
performance less than the poorly trained or undertrained. Proper
training also reduces psychological stress.
MOPP is not a rigid procedure
that puts everyone at the same level. To maintain the balance
between protection and efficiency, leaders apply MOPP with common
sense. Theater and corps commanders use strategic and tactical
intelligence to determine the probable initial use of nuclear,
biological, or chemical weapons. They consider the operational
and logistical burdens NBC warfare would impose upon the theater
of war. On the other hand, junior commanders and leaders are most
aware of the difficulties MOPP can impose on the local situation.
Army operations doctrine emphasizes
that subordinate leaders must take the initiative by independent
action within the overall plan. Therefore, the primary responsibility
of higher-level commanders is to provide subordinate commanders
the threat information needed to set the most appropriate MOPP
level for their mission.
When commanders provide MOPP
guidance, they should not set levels so high as to limit the flexibility
of their subordinates. Commanders should take care not to impose
high MOPP levels over large areas merely as a precautionary measure.
Leaders, generally at battalion
level, conduct a MOPP analysis based on the unit's particular
situation. The analysis finds the balance between reducing the
risk of casualties and accomplishing the mission. Commanders must
recognize the significant increase in time required for mission
execution in MOPP3 or MOPP4 and anticipate the effects of that
degradation on subsequent missions. Leaders must also understand
the increased water requirements. The use of MOPP involves risk;
the better commanders are at analyzing their units' needs for
protection, the lower their units' risk. FM 3-4 contains a detailed
discussion on MOPP analysis and water requirements.
Leaders must carefully analyze
the factors of METT-T for their situation whenever MOPP is considered.
MOPP analysis, in conjunction with METT-T, enables leaders to
select the appropriate MOPP level. During MOPP analysis the commander
- Work rate and its duration.
- Probable warning time.
- Terrain, weather, and time
- Unit training and additional
- Alarm placement.
- Automatic masking policy.
Upon initiation of CW, commanders
must decide whether personnel should automatically mask upon indication
of chemical use, such as enemy artillery or rocket attacks and
smoke operations. Commanders establish and continually assess
policy on automatic masking as the situation and mission change.
They use MOPP analysis to conduct this assessment.
Before initial chemical or
biological weapons use, soldiers automatically mask when there
are high-probability indicators of a chemical attack. High-probability
indicators include activation of chemical alarms, color change
of detector paper, aircraft spray, or chemical agent symptoms.
The leaders' decision on whether personnel should automatically
mask is critical in NBC defense preparation.
If intelligence sources have
identified possible enemy use of biological agents, including
toxins, the commander may institute automatic masking. Troops
will automatically mask for conditions that may signal biological
attack such as smoke, spray, mist, or presence of dead animals
or insect vectors. Since some toxins will attack the skin, protective
clothing should be worn.
Personnel take immediate action
to reduce the impact of an NBC attack. Following an attack they
take poststrike actions to restore fighting power and prepare
to continue the mission. Specific actions vary according to the
type of attack.
An enemy nuclear attack would
normally come without warning. The first indication is a flash
of intense light and heat. Induced radiation arrives with the
light. Blast and hurricane-like winds follow within seconds. Initial
actions must, therefore, be automatic and instinctive. Dropping
immediately and covering exposed skin provide protection against
the blast and thermal effects.
Poststrike actions include
damage assessment and restoration of combat power. Leaders maintain
control and take contingency actions quickly. They restore fighting
power by replacing cover and readying weapon systems. They also
take action to prepare for fallout. As a minimum, unit personnel
cover foxholes and shelter openings. Radiac operators begin continuous
monitoring. Personnel cover exposed skin with their poncho or
don MOPP. They discard this clothing during decon. Covering the
mouth with a handkerchief reduces probability and amount of contaminants
entering the lungs. This method is generally preferable to masking
to avoid trapping contaminants in the mask filter.
Personnel should treat a suspected
biological attack just as a chemical attack. The protective mask
provides protection against all known biological and military
chemical agents. However, current detector systems will not react
to biological agents.
Warning of a chemical attack
may come from automatic alarm, vocal or visual signal, color change
of detector paper, or symptoms observed in oneself or another.
The first reaction should always be to mask and then give the
alarm. Soldiers take whatever cover is readily available to reduce
the contaminants landing on the body. They conduct immediate decon
as necessary to remove all contaminants from the skin. Liquid
chemical agents can penetrate normal clothing, leather boots,
and gloves; soldiers must don MOPP4 for full protection.
After the attack, leaders
adjust MOPP levels as appropriate for the type of hazard and mission.
If necessary, soldiers will continue to fight in MOPP4. When time
allows, leaders will direct decon so personnel can remove masks
and reduce MOPP. Continued reassessments are needed of available
threat information and mission requirements to ensure that MOPP
levels are not set too high.
If overgarments are not available
(for example, unexpected attack during a low-intensity conflict
situation) at time of attack, soldiers must use field-expedient
protection measures. For example, as a temporary expedient units
can use their protective mask with hood, protective gloves, the
issue wet weather parka, battledress uniform, field boots, load-bearing
equipment, and personal weapon. However, the poncho provides protection
for only one to three minutes as a cover against a liquid chemical
Collective protection (COLPRO)
complements the individual protection provided by MOPP gear. COLPRO
provides a toxic-free working environment for selected personnel.
This environment may allow soldiers to function more effectively
while continuing to wear overgarments (as with the ventilated
facepiece system). Alternatively, it may allow the soldier to
temporarily remove overgarments (as with an overpressure system).
In either event the collective protection system is effective
only as long as entry and exit procedures remain valid.
When collective protection
shelters are used to provide relief from wearing MOPP, commanders
establish a system for rotation of personnel. They plan for supplies,
maintenance, and transportation to support the system. They establish
operating procedures for the shelter that assure security, reliability,
The extent and timing of decon
depend on the tactical situation, mission, degree and type of
contamination, and resources available. FM 3-5 provides detailed
guidance on conducting decon operations.
The primary purposes of decon
are to stop erosion of combat power and reduce casualties that
may result from inadvertent exposure or failure of protection.
Combat power drops as soon as personnel don MOPP. The mask restricts
the field of vision and reduces observation and target acquisition
ability. Communication is more difficult. Mobility is reduced
because personnel reduce their physical work rate to avoid heat
stress. The longer a unit remains contaminated, the greater the
chance of NBC casualties. Concomitant injuries may also increase
because combat efficiency is reduced. Timely correct decon avoids
problems, such as protective gear failure and heat stress. Thus,
decon reduces the number of casualties that may result from an
Decon is costly in terms of
manpower, time, space, and materiel. These same resources are
required to fight the battle, so commanders must apply them wisely
and sparingly. The following principles support this action--
- Speed. Decontaminate
as soon as possible to restore full combat potential as soon as
- Need. Decontaminate
only what is necessary. Consider mission, time, extent of contamination,
MOPP status, and decon assets available.
- Limit. Decontaminate
as close to site of contamination as possible to limit its spread.
Do not move contaminated equipment, personnel, or remains away
from the operational area if it is possible to bring decon assets
(organic or supporting units) forward safely. This will keep the
equipment on location, speed decon, and limit the spread of contamination
to other areas.
- Priority. Decontaminate
the most important items first and the least important items last.
Various methods of decon allow
units to lessen the impact of an NBC attack. The following sections
explain these methods in terms of levels and techniques.
Immediate decon is exactly
what the term implies-the immediate actions taken by a soldier
to survive. Individual soldiers conduct immediate decon using
supplies and equipment they carry. STP 21-1-SMCT describes skin
decon and personal wipedown in detail. Immediate decon consists
- Skin decon. Soldiers
remove chemical or biological contamination from their skin with
the skin decon kit. Radiological contamination is washed away
with soap and water.
- Personal equipment wipedown.
Soldiers brush radiological contaminants away and clean chemical
and biological contamination from essential gear with the individual
equipment decon kit.
- Operator spray down.
Operators and crew remove contamination from all surfaces that
must be frequently touched to accomplish the mission. They brush
radiological contaminants away with rags or branches. They spray
chemical and biological contaminants with the on-board decon apparatus.
Teams or squads conduct operational
decon using decon equipment organic to battalion-size units. If
this equipment is not available, units will request vehicle washdown
through command channels. This mission will normally be tasked
to the supporting chemical unit. These procedures limit the spread
of contamination and allow temporary relief from MOPP4. Operational
decon makes thorough decon easier by speeding up the weathering
process for chemical and biological contamination. Operational
decon is less resource-intensive than thorough decon. FM 3-5 describes
in detail the procedures for operational decon. Operational decon
- MOPP gear exchange. Teams
of two or more personnel exchange contaminated overgarments for
clean ones to remove gross contamination.
- Vehicle washdown.
The crew of the lightweight decon system (LDS) sprays vehicles
with hot, soapy water to speed the weathering process. Washdown
limits the spread of contamination. Forces must select decon sites
that avoid contamination of surface water or drinking sources.
This is the most resource-intensive
level of decon. It requires external support by platoon- or company-size
elements assigned the mission of NBC decon. These elements require
augmentation from supported units to accomplish missions. The
decon unit is in charge of the decon site and operation. Forces
coordinate decon sites with the host nation through civil-military
liaison teams. The commander of the decon operation takes positive
action to prevent runoff and contamination of civilian water sources.
FM 3-5 describes in detail the procedures for thorough decon.
The three techniques used in thorough decon are--
- Detailed troop decon. The
unit removes MOPP, monitors for contamination, and decontaminates
masks with assistance from a decon unit.
- Detailed equipment decon.
A decon unit conducts
equipment decon with the assistance of the contaminated unit.
- Detailed aircraft decon.
A decon unit conducts
aircraft decon with the assistance of the contaminated unit.
Decon has positive and negative
effects on unit effectiveness. The overriding positive effect
and ultimate goal of decon are the restoration of the combat power
lost when assuming MOPP. A negative, offsetting effect is a consumption
of resources (time and supplies). Commanders must decide where
the optimum trade-off occurs between restored power and resource
depletion (See Figure 4-1).
Combat Power Restoration
Immediate decon allows soldiers
to survive and continue to fight on the battlefield. Operational
decon allows the force to fight longer by reducing contamination.
Soldiers may temporarily unmask under controlled conditions to
eat, drink, and rest. When time permits, thorough decon restores
almost all combat power of the contaminated force. However, the
decon operations reduce combat power during the decon period.
All decon uses valuable resources
including time. Staff estimates must include time and resupply
requirements. Chemical personnel work closely with combat operators
and logisticians to determine resources needed and availability.
In some cases resources will not be readily available for
decon. In this event the commander may choose weathering to reduce
contamination. There may be substantial time before personnel
can reduce MOPP levels if weathering is allowed.
Every decon mission is unique.
Commanders use on-the-spot judgment to combine the fundamental
principles of NBC defense. Leaders must--
- Understand contamination hazards
and avoid contamination when possible.
- Protect forces and equipment
- Know how to neutralize or
remove the hazards of contamination.
- Conduct only as much decon
as is needed to continue the mission until more thorough decon
may be accomplished.
- Leave as much combat power
forward as possible during decon. When necessary, units may conduct
Patient decon is absolutely
essential. Personnel injured from chemical munitions will be triaged
separately and decontaminated before medical care is rendered.
Additionally, patient decon is done as far forward as possible
to limit the spread of contamination. See FM 8-10-7 for additional
information concerning patient decon.
Casualty decon presents special
problems for units and health service support personnel.
Under NBC conditions, contaminated wounded soldiers create increased
hazards to rescuers and health service support personnel.
On the NBC battlefield, two
classifications of casualties will be encountered: contaminated
and uncontaminated. Those who are contaminated may be suffer the
effects of an NBC agent, a conventional wound, or both. Some may
be battle fatigue or heat casualties, induced by the stress of
NBC conditions and extended time spent in MOPP4. It is important
to follow proper decon procedures to limit the spread of contamination.
Casualty decon begins at platoon
and company levels with individual soldiers. The individual soldier
or members of their teams perform immediate decon. The casualty
is tagged with a field medical card (DD Form 1380), noting the
time and type of contamination. When the casualties' conditions
and battle permit, they may go through a MOPP equipment exchange.
When battle conditions prevent decon procedures forward, casualties
may require evacuation to the battalion aid station (BAS) before
decon. Patients who arrive at the BAS contaminated must be deconned
before admission into the clean treatment area. Patient decon
is performed by a patient decon team from the supported unit.
The team operates under the supervision of medical personnel to
ensure no further patient injury during the decon process.
The division clearing station
(DCS), located in the brigade support area, may receive contaminated
patients from the BAS or directly from areas in the BSA. The DCS
also has a patient decon area. As with the BAS, the DCS is supported
by a patient decon team from the supported unit.
Terrain decon maybe necessary,
despite the tremendous logistical burden, at fixed sites, such
as rail heads, depots, and so forth. Terrain decon may be very
limited, such as to paths, specific buildings, piers, and docks.
Terrain decon will occur only where operationally absolutely required.
If terrain decon is required, expedient methods such as covering
with earth or scraping may be used.
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