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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)



Chemical units are employed to enhance combat power. Combat power is the ability to fight and is achieved by combining maneuver, firepower, protection, and leadership. Through proper employment, chemical units are significant combat multipliers. Chemical units increase combat capabilities on the battlefield by reducing the effects of NBC weapons and making enemy target acquisition less effective. Chemical units are used at brigade/regiment, division, corps, and echelons above corps. Chemical units provide decon, large area smoke, NBC reconnaissance, and staff support.


NBC operations on the battlefield will create tremendous challenges. Unit NBC defense training, chemical staff planning, and proper and effective use of chemical units and staff personnel will greatly reduce the effects of NBC weapons.


Task-organize chemical units to requirements

Mission requirements drive size and composition of chemical units. A mix of different units (smoke, decon, and NBC recon) is often necessary to achieve the proper balance of capabilities. This mix can change as the operation progresses.

Give priority to the main effort

There are never enough chemical units to handle all tasks. Chemical units are spread evenly across the battlefield, but are concentrated with the main effort to ensure success. This requires accepting risk elsewhere.

Integrate chemical units with maneuver and fire

The scheme of maneuver governs the chemical support plan. Smoke and NBC recon elements enhance the effectiveness of fire and maneuver. Chemical units will operate well forward in the combat zone and will require the protection offered by fire and maneuver.

Ensure current chemical support operations promote future force operations

Chemical units and staffs must anticipate future missions and reposition their units, if necessary, while accomplishing the current mission. The positioning of decon sites should not interfere with future operations.

Do not hold smoke and NBC recon units in reserve

Chemical units, especially smoke and NBC recon, do not remain with forces that are not in the fight. They remain out of action only long enough to refit after a major action.

Build a logistically sustainable force

Resources are always limited. Chemical units cannot sustain themselves and require support from other organizations. Chemical unit sustainment and the supporting logistics structure must be planned in detail. Logistic limitations may restrict the size of the supporting chemical unit.

Maintain effective battle command

Effective plans use all available chemical unit headquarters, align them with maneuver boundaries, and hand off operations smoothly between them.

Use all local resources

Chemical units, particularly decon units, need to use local resources. Host nation support should always be considered and used when available. Use of host nation chemical support in the rear areas can release more chemical units forward to the combat zone.


Chemical unit control headquarters (chemical brigade HHC and chemical battalion HHD) are employed to provide command, control, and coordination for subordinate chemical units. These organizations also provide certain logistical support and facilitate the coordination of logistical support for their subordinate units. This allows the supported unit's chemical staff to concentrate on NBC defense planning and execution rather than logistical support for supporting chemical units.

The chemical brigade HHC can control up to six chemical battalions and is normally allocated to a corps. In contingency operations it is possible that the chemical brigade HHC could be allocated to the theater army (Army component commander) commander to control all chemical assets in the theater.

The chemical battalion HHD can control up to five chemical companies and detachments. Chemical battalion HHDs are allocated to a corps based on the number of chemical companies assigned. As seen in Operation Desert Shield/Storm, it is possible that the chemical battalion HHD will be the senior chemical command and control element in a corps.

Having a chemical battalion HHD instead of a chemical brigade HHC in support of a corps
means --

  • The corps chemical staff assumes a greater role in planning and coordinating chemical unit operations, to include the coordination of logistical support to the chemical units.

  • Chemical battalion HHD communications assets are not as robust as the chemical brigade's. This limits the responsiveness and flexibility of supporting chemical units.


Smoke Operations

The mission of smoke units is to generate large-area smoke screens. These smoke screens decrease friendly force vulnerability and/or degrade threat force's command, control, communication, and intelligence capabilities from the forward to the rear areas of the battlefield. Smoke is used on the battlefield to--

  • Obscure.

  • Screen.

  • Protect.

  • Mark.

Smoke support provided by smoke generator units should be integrated with other available smoke-producing assets. Such assets include artillery- and mortar-delivered smoke projectiles, smoke pots, and vehicle self-protection smoke systems. These assets should be integrated with the preceding employment concepts to achieve the most effective smoke support.

For further information concerning smoke operations, see FM 3-50, Smoke Operations.

Smoke Unit Employment

Both motorized and mechanized smoke generator units can produce either fixed-area or mobile smoke screens as required. Mechanized smoke units are best employed supporting maneuver forces, while motorized smoke units normally support units not engaged in close combat. Motorized smoke units in support of motorized and light units do operate well forward. However, these are not strict rules. Smoke units will be employed wherever needed to support a maneuver force. This does not mean they will operate across the FLOT on their own. Smoke units should never be kept in reserve. Units unable to use their supporting smoke units for whatever reasons should return control of the smoke unit to their higher headquarters.

Before beginning the planning process, the smoke unit leader needs the following items of information from the supported unit--

  • Commanders intent.

  • Location and size of the area to be screened.

  • The time smoke coverage is required.

  • Duration of smoke coverage.

  • Visibility desired within the screen.

  • Operational activities of the supported unit.

Using this information, the smoke unit leader issues a warning order to his unit. He initiates a recon of the operational area in as much detail as time and the situation permits. Depending on coordination required, the entire planning process can take a few minutes or a few hours.

The objective or selected area or areas to be concealed are located during the recon. This is necessary to determine weather and terrain information. Based on this information and the supported unit's visibility requirements, the spacing between smoke generator systems and minimum distance from these systems to the area to be concealed can be calculated. This calculated distance is a guide only. Actual locations of individual smoke generator systems are determined by using METT-T.

All smoke generator units depend on the wind to carry the smoke over the area to be concealed. Alternate positions for smoke generator systems must be planned to provide the required coverage for any wind direction. Obviously, it is not possible to use these alternate positions for every operation because of untrafficable terrain, enemy troop locations, and other factors. In such cases, plans must include the use of other smoke sources, such as smoke pots or artillery- or mortar-delivered smoke projectiles.

During fixed-area screening operations, units use primary and alternate smoke positions. Figure 2-1 illustrates how a motorized smoke platoon plans coverage of a brigade support area (BSA). The smoke platoon occupies the primary smoke line. The alternate smoke lines provide overall coverage in the event that wind shifts.

Mobile smoke operations use primary and alternate positions for each smoke source. Figure 2-2 illustrates how a corps mechanized smoke company plans coverage of a brigade task force assaulting an enemy strongpoint. In this case, because of the threat, alternate positions cannot be planned to ensure coverage of the required areas for any wind direction.


Decon Operations

There are three types of decon: immediate, operational, and thorough. Decon units provide operational & thorough decon support. Decon operations are planned and executed following these principles. Decontaminate--

  • As soon as possible.

  • Only what is necessary.

  • As far forward as possible.

  • By priority.

Operational Decon. The objective of operational decon is to remove just enough of the contamination to allow soldiers to sustain operations. Operational decon should begin at the earliest opportunity. Rapid decon reduces the potential for delayed injuries and casualties, thus enhancing unit effectiveness. Operational decon uses two decon techniques--MOPP-gear exchange and vehicle washdown. It requires support from the battalion-level power-driven decon equipment (PDDE) crew or from a decon squad or platoon.

An unsupported vehicle washdown occurs when the contaminated unit uses its organic equipment to conduct the washdown. A supported vehicle washdown is when the assets from a decon unit are used. A decon unit may support operational decon operations when--

  • The contaminated unit's decon equipment and resources are unable to process their contaminated vehicles in a timely manner.

  • If the mission of the maneuver unit is critical and limited by time, the operational supported concept will speed the decon process.

  • The contaminated unit does not have the equipment or their equipment is not serviceable.

Thorough Decon. Thorough decon is the process of reducing the contamination hazard to a negligible risk. Thorough decon uses two techniques - detailed troop decon (DTD) and detailed equipment decon (DED). DTD is the process of decontaminating individual soldiers. DED is the process of removing or neutralizing contamination on the interior and exterior surfaces of unit equipment. A contaminated unit undergoing DED and DTD can allow MOPP reductions for extended periods. Thorough decon operations are conducted by decon units with support from the contaminated unit. The contaminated unit will set-up and run the DTD line with guidance (if needed) from the supporting decon unit.

Decon units can conduct thorough decon operations under three different situations: after combat operations, during reconstitution, and during a passage of lines. These three situations present different considerations for command and control, management of supplies, resources and planning of decon operations,

Thorough decon after combat operations. A mission capable unit (for example, a field artillery battery) has been contaminated. The battery is needed for an upcoming high priority mission. However, the contamination does not allow the unit to perform at 100 percent of its capability because of MOPP degradation.

The decision is made to support the contaminated unit with thorough decon to restore its combat power by lowering the contamination to a negligible risk. The decision to support this battery with thorough decon operations, in this situation, probably will be made at division level. The exact setup of the thorough decon site is dependent on METT-T (the friendly and enemy tactical situations, the number of contaminated vehicles and personnel, the number of decon platoons available, and the time available to conduct the decon).

Thorough decon during reconstitution. Reconstitution consists of reorganization, assessment and regeneration. Thorough decon operations are conducted during the reorganization and/or regeneration process. Operations that support regeneration of combat power may involve support to units that are contaminated. The contaminated units may not be capable of providing unit personnel to the detailed equipment decon line because of combat losses. To minimize the transfer or spread of contamination, thorough decon will occur before the sustainment activities (that is, manning, supplying, maintaining).

Additional personnel will be provided as needed to man decon lines and operate vehicles to accomplish thorough decon. This decon process will occur forward from the designated assembly area before the contaminated unit goes through the large scale replacement of personnel, equipment, and supplies. Corps- and division-level decon units can provide decon support during reconstitution operations.

Thorough decon during a passage of lines. A unit conducting a rearward passage of lines under enemy pressure has encountered contamination during its movement. The principles "decon as far forward as possible" and "decontaminate as soon as possible" apply in this case. The division (or higher) makes the decision to execute operational decon forward to limit the spread of contamination and unit degradation. The operational decon site is established near the end of the passage lane and out of enemy direct fire. See figure 2-3.

Once operational decon operation is completed, the contaminated unit can proceed without spreading contamination. Prior to arrival at the tactical assembly area, the contaminated unit will conduct thorough decon.

For further information concerning decon operations, see FM 3-5, NBC Decontamination.

Decon Unit Employment

Decon units are employed based on METT-T. By determining the threats capability and ability to employ ground contaminating chemical agents, a threat assessment is made. Depending on the threat assessment, decon units are allocated and positioned. There are two techniques for employing decon units: centralized and decentralized. Under centralized operations, decon units are controlled at the highest levels. Units needing decon support request the support from the controlling headquarters. The controlling headquarters analyzes the request for support. Once the decision is made to provide decon support, a decon unit is given the task of providing the requested support. Under decentralized operations, decon units are positioned around the battlefield based on METT-T. Control of the decon units is passed to subordinate units.

Centralized operations are best used when--

  • The NBC threat is vague or unknown.

  • There are insufficient decon assets to support each major subordinate command with dedicated assets.

  • The controlling commander wants to retain maximum flexibility at his level.

Decentralized operations are best used when--

  • There is a well-defined NBC threat.

  • The controlling commanders want their subordinates to have maximum flexibility in employing decon assets.

  • Time and space prevent the higher headquarters from providing responsive decon support.

  • Communications between higher and subordinate units may not allow responsive decon support.

All echelons must conduct some planning and preparation for conducting decon operations. Most decon planning is conducted at the levels that have control of decon units. Decon planning is conducted as part of the overall planning process. The commander should provide guidance on decon to the chemical staff early in the planning process. The commander's guidance should indicate under what circumstances operational or thorough decon operations will be conducted and their priorities for decon support.

For example, "if the maneuver forces become contaminated during the attack, they'll continue to fight dirty until after the objective is secured. We then conduct thorough decon as necessary while preparing for the next operation. Artillery units contaminated during the battle may require operational decon support so that they can sustain operations. Priority of decon support is to artillery, CSS, C2, and maneuver units". From the commander's general guidance concerning decon, the chemical staff officer and the chemical unit commander can begin to develop the decon plan.

The chemical staff will select possible decon sites throughout their area of operations. The selection of the decon sites is based upon the type of decon operation (operational or thorough), terrain, the scheme of maneuver, the threat, the road network, and the availability of water. After the decon sites are selected, link-up points are chosen to support each decon site. It is possible that one decon site may have more than one associated link-up point. The selection of the link-up points requires careful consideration. The decon link-up points must be easily recognizable to all parties.

Since the total decon capability of any unit is limited, the commander must establish a priority of decon support. The priority of support can change from phase to phase during an operation. The chemical staff develops the priority of support by determining the decon technique to be used (operational or thorough), the threat (what units are likely to become contaminated and when), and the likelihood the unit can accomplish decon. To give priority of support to the lead force during the assault phase may not be the best choice since elements of the task force that become contaminated will most likely not stop to accomplish decon until after the assault is completed. The commander should establish a priority of work that specifies the order vehicles are decontaminated. A priority of work may look like this: Engineer equipment, Ml, M2, FIST-V. The priority of work also may vary from phase to phase of the operation.

A limiting factor that must be considered when planning any decon operations is the availability of water. FM 3-5 states that 550-gallons of water per vehicle is used during a thorough decon. This is a good planning factor, but it also must be recognized that the amount of water required will vary by type of vehicle. A HWMMV will require less water than an M 1 tank, and a 5,000-gallon fuel tanker will require a lot more water than 550-gallons. The chemical unit/staff must develop a water resupply plan. In a water-rich environment, such as Europe, it is as easy as identifying water sources where the decon platoon can obtain water.

In a water-scarce environment, such as the Middle East, the chemical unit/staff must coordinate a water resupply plan with the G4/S4. A water resupply plan can be as simple as selecting a series of link-up points along the MSR where the decon platoon can link-up with bulk water trucks from a support unit. More complex water resupply plans include linking up with bulk water trucks, caching water throughout the area of operations, coordinating for the movement of water bladders by aircraft to the decon sites, and the identification of water sources in the unit's area of operation. At times, when the need for decon water is critical, reprioritization of potable water from such sources as laundries and baths may become necessary in order to temporarily meet needs.

The positioning of the decon platoon on the battlefield is an integral part of the decon plan. The initial position of the decon platoon is based on the unit's mission, what unit has the priority of support, and the persistent chemical threat. The chemical staff also must consider the range of the enemy's indirect fire systems and the time the decon platoon requires to move and set up. One technique is the use of phase lines or decision points to trigger the movement of the decon platoon to subsequent decon sites.

The decon plan can be issued in several different formats. One technique for distributing the brigade decon plan is to use an execution matrix that lists the decon site(s), link-up point(s), decon technique, priority of support, and work by phase or event. Decon sites and link-up points must be included on the combat service support graphics.

Deconfliction of proposed decon sites is critical at all levels. Decon sites should support the scheme of maneuver and not interfere with future operations. Subordinate units should clear their proposed decon sites with their higher headquarters to avoid duplication and ensure that the locations do not interfere with future operations.

The decon unit leader should conduct a recon of the proposed decon sites. Since the chemical staff is selecting decon sites by map reconnaissance, the proposed sites may not be suitable. If the proposed sites cannot support decon operations, the decon unit leader should attempt to find another site close to original site. The decon unit leader should never change the location of the decon site without coordination with the supported unit's chemical staff. Link-up points should only be changed as a last resort.

The decon unit leader should attend all the supported unit's rehearsals whenever possible. At a minimum the decon unit leader must have the supported unit's operations and combat service support graphics posted on its map.

The actual decon operation begins once a unit has become contaminated. The contaminated unit's leaders must assess their situation and accurately report their status to their headquarters. While the unit may not be able to conduct decon during the battle, the decon unit can reposition and begin preparation to process the contaminated unit.

The request for decon support must contain several essential elements of information to assist the chemical staff and the decon unit leader in coordinating the decon operation. These essential elements of information are--

  • Designation of the contaminated unit.

  • Location of the contaminated unit.

  • Time unit became contaminated.

  • Earliest possible time the unit can move/begin decon.

  • Type of contamination.

  • Number of contaminated vehicles by type.

  • Number of personnel and casualties contaminated.

  • Special requirements (recovery assets, unit decon team, for example.).

Upon learning of a unit being contaminated, the controlling headquarter's chemical staff must begin coordinating the decon operation. The decon unit is given a warning order. Subsequent warning orders provide more detailed information to the decon unit. After receiving the request for decon support, the controlling unit's chemical staff will issue an order to the decon unit. One technique is to have a message format in the SOP that contains all the information necessary to the decon unit to coordinate and execute the mission (Figure 2-4).

The controlling unit's chemical staff must decide if the decon unit is correctly positioned to support the contaminated unit. This is determined by the locations of the contaminated unit and the decon unit and the impact of moving the contaminated unit to the decon site. If the decon unit is not in position to support the contaminated unit, it must move as quickly as possible to a decon site that will support the operation. The chemical staff must coordinate the movement of the contaminated unit to the link-up point and the decon site. Depending on the size and type of unit contaminated, the chemical staff may issue a warning order to any elements involved in the water resupply plan.

Once the decon unit is in position and set up, the decon unit's representative moves to the link-up point. The most difficult part of the decon operation is the link-up between the contaminated unit and the decon element. All elements supporting the decon (medical, recovery, logistical, and so forth.) should not be directed to the link-up point unless they are contaminated. Supporting assets must coordinate with the decon unit to be met and led into the decon site. The contaminated unit's higher headquarters must dispatch a command and control cell to the decon site to supervise the decon operation. Movement of units (decon and contaminated) must be coordinated with the G3/S3, engineers, and subordinate headquarters when units will cross boundaries.

After link-up is achieved and all support assets are in position, the actual decon operation can commence. The decon unit's leader, in conjunction with the supported unit's command and control cell supervise the decon operation. The controlling unit's chemical staff must assert staff supervision during all phases of the decon operation.


NBC Reconnaissance Operations

NBC recon operations support the NBC principle of contamination avoidance. NBC recon provides commanders with freedom of maneuver and minimizes the degradation from operating under NBC conditions. NBC recon operations include search, survey, surveillance, and sampling missions.

NBC recon is a mission undertaken to obtain militarily significant information about the NBC condition of routes, areas, and zones. This information confirms or denies the presence of NBC attacks or hazards with detection and identification equipment. Visual observation or the collection of samples in the specified location or region can also provide this information. NBC surveys are missions conducted to collect detailed information of NBC contamination hazards. The survey determines the type of contamination, the degree (extent/intensity), and the boundaries. NBC surveillance is the systematic observation of an area to provide early warning. Sampling operations provide physical evidence of NBC attacks and technical intelligence concerning the enemy's NBC weapons systems.

NBC Reconnaissance Unit Employment

During offensive operations, NBC recon units will operate throughout the framework of the battlefield. In the forward combat area, NBC recon elements are integrated into the overall recon and surveillance effort. NBC recon units are generally employed to either--

  • Confirm or deny contaminated areas.

  • Confirm the area is clear of contamination.

Whatever the method of employing NBC recon units, efforts must be focused by the IPB and the supported commander's priority intelligence requirements (PIR) and intelligence requirements (IR).

The capabilities and limitations of the NBC recon systems must be considered when developing the plan. NBC recon platoons can be employed at platoon, section, squad, or team levels. When employed at the team level, it will be paired with an overwatch partner. Both M93 NBCRS (Fox) and M113-equipped units can be used to support maneuver forces. HMMWV-equipped units are best employed at the squad and platoon levels. Because HMMWV-equipped units are less survivable, they are best employed with similar light and motorized maneuver forces or in rear areas. The Fox can rapidly detect and identify chemical contamination. M113-and HMMWV-equipped units do not have the ability to rapidly detect and identify contamination.

Confirm or deny contaminated areas. When the NBC IPB identifies possible contaminated areas in the area of operations, NBC recon can be employed to confirm or deny the presence of contamination. Templated contaminated areas that could affect the scheme of maneuver are designated as Named Areas of Interest (NAI). These NAIs are included in the Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R&S) Plan. Supporting NBC recon elements are tasked in the R&S Plan to observe selected NAIs. The NBC recon can observe the designated NAIs through physical recon or by observation. If the NBC recon element conducts a physical recon of the NAI, the supporting unit may have to provide security. Detailed coordination with other recon assets is required to prevent duplication and fratricide.

Confirm the area is clear of contamination. NBC recon elements are integrated into the combat formation. They move behind or with the lead maneuver force. If the formation encounters contamination, the NBC recon can deploy to find clear by-pass routes around the contaminated area. The lead maneuver force provides security as the NBC recon elements attempt to find a by-pass route. Once the by-pass route is located, the NBC recon is integrated back into the formation in case there are additional contaminated areas.

In the rear areas NBC recon units are employed to allow the supported commander to retain the freedom of maneuver. NBC recon efforts are again focused by the IPB and the R&S plan. NBC recon elements can be positioned throughout the rear conducting NBC surveillance missions. Main supply routes (MSRs) and other vital routes can be monitored for contamination by periodically patrolling the routes.

During defensive operations, NBC recon elements can be assigned NBC surveillance missions behind the main defensive positions to observe designated NAIs for NBCactivity. Once NBC activity is observed, the NBC recon element can be employed to confirm or deny the presence of chemical agents. If contamination is found, the elements can find clear by-pass routes and mark the contaminated area. This gives commanders the freedom to maneuver behind their main defensive area. NBC recon elements may support to counterattack forces to rapidly find by-pass routes if contamination is encountered.

In the corps and TA rear area NBC recon units will conduct NBC recon operations along MSRs and at critical points. They also respond to reports of NBC attacks to determine the type and extent of contamination. Additionally, NBC recon units may be assigned NBC surveillance missions to observe designated areas for NBC attacks. Areas to be occupied by logistics and C2 facilities can be checked for NBC hazards.

NBC recon units can perform conventional recon missions. After NBC warfare has been initiated, the employment of NBC recon units in conventional recon roles must be approved by corps/division commanders.


Chemical units may be reorganized to function as a reaction force to defeat up to level II and delay level III rear area threats (see Figure 2-6 for rear area threat levels). Additionally, chemical units can assist in area damage control (ADC). The decision to reorganize chemical units must be carefully weighed against the current NBC threat. The reorganization decision is made by the parent organization.

Response forces are the initial force to respond to a threat within their area of operations. This force destroys the enemy within their capability. If the attack is by an enemy force beyond the capability of the response force, the response force will--

  • Delay and disrupt the enemy force.

  • Request additional support from the rear area operations center (RAOC).

  • Attempt to learn the size and intent of the enemy force.

Once reorganized, chemical units will come under the control of a RAOC. The RAOC will position the response force on the battlefield to provide security and react to enemy rear threats. FM 90-14, Rear Battle provides an in-depth discussion of rear battle operations.

Area damage control are those actions taken before, during, and after hostile action or natural disasters to reduce the probability of damage and to minimize its effects. Chemical units can respond to the affected area and provide immediate assessment of the damage. Decon units can provide limited fire-fighting services. NBC recon units can determine the type and extent of hazards if NBC weapons were used or commercial chemicals involved. Decon units can establish decon sites as necessary. The RAOC for the affected area will establish command and control over units providing ADC support.

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