11th MEU takes gas chamber training to next level

25 Oct 2013 | Lance Cpl. Demetrius Morgan 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

During every training evolution, there is a discernible goal that is accentuated before, during and after the exercise. It serves as the incentive and motivation for Marines to accomplish a task with the most speed, intensity and efficiency possible. Aside from that, there is an unspoken yet very apparent idea that no matter how mission capable a unit may be, there is always room for improvement. One of the keys to testing capabilities as well as improving them is innovation, which is the process of introducing a new idea or concept into something of value.

The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit used innovation to execute its most recent training exercise. On Oct. 25, the 11th MEU combined hiking with annual gas chamber familiarization training.

“The purpose of this training is to increase the individual’s and unit’s readiness due to the global response force that the MEU holds,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Fordham, the 11th MEU CBRND chief. “The 11th MEU as a whole has to be ready for anything, which includes a CBRN threat.”

With their scheduled deployment approaching, the MEU is participating in training exercises at a more frequent rate while intensifying each training event to further prepare and condition them for any circumstance. This most recent hike was a testament to that.

As the Marines gathered themselves in the assembly area, there was a mixture of moods that could be observed. Most personnel didn’t say much. It was as if you could see the gears turning as they contemplated what could happen. Others were seen casually engaging in conversation as if to seem unaffected by what was to come. The one common trait that all personnel displayed was composure.

“Let's go, we’re stepping!” said Sgt. Maj. Troy Black, the 11th MEU sergeant major. It started out just like any other hike with the boots marching along the dirt road, and the rifles and designated gear colliding with each other.

At the 10-minute mark, the MEU stopped to put on Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear. Going into the hike, the Marines new at some point that they would be getting gassed, but nobody knew when or where. All they were told was when they smell gas, sound the verbal alarm, stop breathing, close their eyes and put on their mask.

The Marines proceeded with caution after the formation started to move again. They were seen looking in various directions, trying to detect where the CBRN threat would appear.
“Gas Gas Gas!” yelled someone in the formation after smelling gas along the route. Canisters containing the riot control agent-chlorobenzal malononitrile, otherwise known as CS, spread throughout the area, forcing MEU personnel to utilize their M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask.

“Most Marines aren’t used to doing strenuous activity in MOPP gear,” said Lance Cpl. Joseph Leeder, CBRN Defense specialist with the 11th MEU. “Confidence and familiarization are the main things you want to focus on when dealing with CBRN related events like this.”

The real challenge began when the MEU continued to hike through the gas. Although protected by the effects of the gas, vision through the mask, and the gas itself, was limited at best. Also, due to the insulation of the MOPP gear, the temperature inside increased dramatically causing many of the Marines to sweat heavily.

Through these conditions, the MEU advanced through the terrain as if there were no threat at all. When personnel had reached the final destination point, they conducted the standard procedures for shedding contaminated gear, which was rehearsed during their last training exercise. The MEU then boarded the bus and headed back to headquarters.
The next hike that the 11th MEU is scheduled to participate in is on Nov. 15.

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
Commanding Officer

Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
Executive Officer

LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarrĀ enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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