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Working for the Warfighter: Center’s CBRN Equipment Maintenance Team Keeps U.S. Forces in the Fight

Working for the Warfighter: Center’s CBRN Equipment Maintenance Team Keeps U.S. Forces in the Fight

By Angel S. Castro Rodriguez

The job of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) protective equipment that the Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Chemical Biological Center and other U.S. Army research laboratories develop, design and help field is to keep warfighters safe in CBRN threat environments. The more confident they can be in their protection from these threats, the better able they are to stay in the fight.

The CBRN Equipment Technical Assistance Team assists Army commanders in determining the overall readiness of their fielded CBRN defense equipment. We travel to commanders’ units and work directly with the warfighters to ensure the serviceability and maintainability of the CBRN equipment they depend on. We direct our services to meet each unit’s individual needs, we provide guidance and mentorship on how best to maintain the equipment, and we collect their feedback so that the commander is fully appraised of how best to maintain their Soldiers’ safety. We also bring that feedback back to the Center to let our equipment designers know how they can continuously improve the equipment.

These visits are not inspections. They are face-to-face training sessions with the warfighters responsible for getting the best performance out of their equipment. They typically last from one to two weeks. In that time, working side-by-side with the warfighters, we perform system checks, assess how the equipment is performing, do repairs, and take the equipment apart and put it back together. We also work with these warfighters on how to get the most out of the technical manuals that come with the equipment and how to do their own trouble shooting when they encounter a malfunction. Our goal with every visit is to return to the Center knowing that the unit is now far more capable of maintaining their CBRN equipment than they were before we arrived.

We visit a wide range of units. In addition to chemical companies and battalions, we have visited infantry, artillery and intelligence units. We have also visited many different kinds of specialized service support and combat support units. These units are spread throughout the continental United States, Europe, Japan and Korea. They include regular Army, Reserve and National Guard units. The team has the expertise to assess a wide variety of CBRN equipment. It includes personal protective equipment such as protective masks and MOPP gear; detection equipment such as the M4/M4A1 Joint Chemical Agent Detector and the Improved Chemical Agent Monitor; and decontamination equipment such as the M26 Joint Service Transportable Decontaminating System, and M12A1 Decontamination Apparatus.

At the end of each visit the unit commander receives an out-brief and a final report with our recommendations for maintaining and enhancing their unit’s CBRN readiness. The Center receives funds to provide this service to the field so units are not burdened with the cost of the visits.

The team consists of myself and six other CBRN equipment subject matter experts. They bring a broad range of skills to bear, including electrical engineering and chemical engineering, and are passionate about their work and the well-being of our warfighters.

Angel S. Castro Rodriguez is an engineering technician in the Chemical Biological Center’s Physical Protection Engineering Branch and leads the CBRN Equipment Technical Assessment Team. He was born in Puerto Rico and joined the U.S. Army at the age of 19. There, he served as a squad leader, a platoon sergeant, and as an observer/controller at the Fort Irwin National Training Center in charge of the decontamination operations of a chemical company. He retired in 2003 as an E-7 after 20 years of service. He started working at the Chemical Biological Center in 2005 and became a Department of the Army Civilian in 2008. (Photo by Brian B. Feeney, Ph.D.)

▲ Angel S. Castro Rodriguez is an engineering technician in the Chemical Biological Center’s Physical Protection Engineering Branch and leads the CBRN Equipment Technical Assessment Team. He was born in Puerto Rico and joined the U.S. Army at the age of 19. There, he served as a squad leader, a platoon sergeant, and as an observer/controller at the Fort Irwin National Training Center in charge of the decontamination operations of a chemical company. He retired in 2003 as an E-7 after 20 years of service. He started working at the Chemical Biological Center in 2005 and became a Department of the Army Civilian in 2008. (Photo by Brian B. Feeney, Ph.D.)