Heavy, sand-colored protective suits made the pair of Marines appear as desert astronauts while they trekked along a beaten cement airstrip. Loud gushes of oxygen filled their gas masks as they breathed; closing the gap between them and the objective.
This was the scene during a field exercise at Marine Corps Outlying Field Atlantic, North Carolina, Nov. 28 through Dec. 2. Twenty-two Marines assigned to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense conducted the annual training exercise to refresh the unit on the basics of their military occupational specialty.
The training conducted by the Marines reviewed skills such as knowing and understanding the effects of different chemical agents, reconnaissance and surveillance and assessment consequence management. The CBRN Marines are assigned to Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and stationed aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
"It’s really important to go back and focus on the lower levels of training so we remember the basics," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Allen, the platoon sergeant assigned to CBRN. "It is important, because it allows us to build confidence in the skill sets we have, and go back to Cherry Point to further progress in our training."
The exercise included an assortment of stations and classes that tested the Marines physically and mentally.
While wearing heavy, protective Assessment Consequence Management gear, the Marines were required to walk up and down ten flights of stairs to observe the strain it may put on their body, conduct a casualty drag for 100 meters and complete a simple jigsaw puzzle to observe the dexterity that can be lost while using gloves.
"It lets the Marines be hands-on and get out of their comfort zone," said Sgt. Jarrod Roper, a CBRN defense specialist with the unit. "The new environment helps them think outside the box."
As many units within 2nd MAW continue to rededicate themselves to their core missions, Allen says CBRN will carry the lessons learned into everyday classes throughout the year, and keep the Marines focused on their root task.
"If you watch the news and stay current with a lot of the different events going on, CBRN is becoming a more viable threat," said Allen. "We need to remain proficient in the basics if we want to continue developing our skills."