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319th Training Squadron lays the foundation for CBRN training

  • Published
  • By Joe Gangemi
  • 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –Airmen and Guardians are able to operate in a ready state and continue the mission when chemicals are present, thanks to their Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense training.

Emergency Management cadre at the 319th Training Squadron train all enlisted Airmen and Guardians at Basic Military Training on CBRN defense – nearly 35,000 recruits annually.

“The training provided here lays the solid foundational skillset that’s required to build upon readiness,” said Tech. Sgt. Tyler Pennington, 319th TRS, CBRN Section Chief. “This is the first time that they have ever worn or seen this protective equipment.”

After BMT graduation, Airmen and Guardians are awarded and will be current on their CBRN Defense training for 18 months.

Over the last 20 months, there have been significant changes to the CBRN Defense training course, including relocation from The Torch site behind Wilford Hall to the current Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training site at the JBSA-Chapman Annex. 

“After an eight-month tactical pause due to COVID-19, we launched the revamped CBRN Defense course with mitigation protocols during a beta test conducted in December 2020,” Pennington said. “The instructor-led course consists of individual and team performance-based objectives that provides hands-on evaluation of CBRN defense material. Delivering the CBRN Defense course at the BEAST site allows for application in the different zones enabling us to provide crawl, walk and run scenarios in a simulated deployed environment.”

During the week-long BEAST experience, trainees are spilt into four camps or “zones” named Vigilant, Sentinel, Reaper, and Phantom. Within each zone, there are 10 canvas tents used for sleeping, plus one used as a field hospital and the other as a command post. A three-story tower stands in the center, along with a hardened building used as an armory and a bomb shelter. Each zone also includes five defensive firing positions and an entry control point, making each zone a self-contained unit responsible for operating and defending itself.

The eight-hour course includes four lessons that cover the M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask, Ground Crew Chemical Ensemble, Mission-Oriented Protective Postures levels, CBRN hazards and attack actions. The morning portion focuses on equipment familiarization and knowledge-based objectives, while the afternoon portion challenges trainees to use what they’ve learned and react to scenarios in a simulated environment within their respective zones.

The gas chamber portion was removed from the course in 2020 as a COVID-19 mitigation protocol, and then sustained significant damage during Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. Now known as the Mask Confidence Training Facility, the new building is forecasted to arrive by the end of the year. This facility will enhance training by instilling confidence in the CBRN protective gear required to survive and operate in a WMD-contested environment.

‘’Trainees now receive the entire CBRN course in one location and on the same day of training versus two locations and two different weeks of training. Previously there was a one-week gap in the initial course, application and exercises,’’ said Master Sgt. Travis Lexvold, CBRN Flight Chief.

‘’Relocating the course reunited the entire flight of instructors with the rest of the expeditionary training mission. Consolidating to one location allows us to more efficiently and effectively maintain $6.1M worth of CBRN training gear including shipping and receiving operations. Most importantly, the BEAST site provides a more realistic training environment to execute the CBRN Defense course,’’ he added.

Completion of the CBRN Defense course, a combat skills line of effort, is one of seven core graduation requirements of BMT that strategically aligns to Air and Space Force foundational competencies.