22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines learn organic chemistry

26 Jan 2011 | Sgt. Josh Cox

Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in specialized classes about hazardous materials during a training evolution aboard the Center for National Response, in Gallagher, W.V., Jan. 25-26, 2011.

The course, led by DuPont senior chemist Wayne Appleton, PhD., gave the Marines a scientific view into various types of hazardous materials like gases, vapors, crystals, powders and liquids.  The Marines received instruction in organic chemistry to increase familiarity with numerous chemical elements, and the course allowed the Marines to analyze the latest hazardous material detection equipment used to identify harmful substances.

If dispatched, CBRN Marines with the 22nd MEU will quickly respond to hazardous materials incidents aboard ship, during humanitarian and relief operations or while in a combat zone.

For example, a natural disaster in the vicinity of a foreign nation’s industrial complex could release harmful chemicals into a highly populated area, or adversaries could intentionally use hazardous materials in a chemical attack targeting Americans.

According to Appleton, terrorists previously used chemical weapons to scare, injure and kill victims in organized attacks.  Additionally, these perpetrators used common products available to consumers in an effort to harness deadly chemicals.

A major portion of the course concentrated on homemade chemical substances, weapons and explosives.

Appleton, who also serves as DuPont’s emergency response specialist said, clandestine laboratories often have the capability to prepare or isolate toxins with extremely simple equipment.

The Marines learned about the chemistry involved in producing homemade hazardous materials, and how to identify dangerous laboratory equipment used to fabricate harmful elements.

At the conclusion of the classroom seminars, the Marines used specialized detection equipment in a laboratory to properly and safely identify dangerous compounds, like nitric acid, a potentially dangerous substance if used improperly.

Marines such as Cpl. Orin S. Colegrove, a CBRN defense specialist and native of Las Vegas, tested chemicals using handheld and desktop hazardous materials identification devices.

“The instructor really exemplified the necessity for responders to have this level of training regarding the knowledge of hazardous materials in order to prepare for the changing face of conventional warfare,” Colegrove explained. “I especially like how Dr. Appleton touched on the actual theory on how the detection equipment works. It allows us to better interpret the data we are receiving.”

The hazardous materials course supplemented a specialized two-week training package in advanced chemical familiarity and technical rescue to prepare the CBRN Marines for an upcoming deployment with the 22nd MEU.

While deployed, the Marines will operate as an assessment and consequence management team trained to flexibly perform missions in unique environments.

In addition to the advanced chemical classes, this training evolution certified the Marines in confined space entry and rescue; collapsed structure entry and rescue; and high and low angle rescue.  The certifications will be awarded by officials representing the University of West Virginia and Wisconsin’s Regional All-Climate Training Center.

The Center for National Response is a facility of the Army National Guard used to train emergency responders in a variety of skill sets.

The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are in the early stages of their pre-deployment training program, which is a series of progressively complex exercises designed to train and test the MEU's ability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task Force.

The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and the Command Element.

Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps' smallest permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force, commanded by a colonel and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response in a hostile or crisis environment.  While deployed, each MEU also incorporates two KC-130 aircraft available to support the unit's operations abroad. 

22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit