CBRN – Enlist and be a SERGEANT in two years.
Make Sergeant in two years, Staff Sergeant in just over four. Other than the infantry, there is one job, where that has been happening for the past couple years. If you are considering the Army, but you are not a “kid” anymore, and you don’t want to forever become an equal with the “youngsters”, there is one support job where you can rapidly rise through the ranks.
That job has a fairly high number of soldiers, and a very high requirement for Sergeants. That is CBRN Specialist (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear), MOS (Military Occupational Specialty)74D. AIT (Advanced Individual Training) is 11 weeks, at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. This is an update of an article I posted a couple of years ago, titled “Chemical”, so you don’t have to read both.
A Chemical Corps Lieutenant Colonel recently described the job like this; “Most 74Ds are the CBRN Specialist for a company, any company. They usually have more senior CBRN NCOs/Officers at BN, BDE, and DIV (battalion, brigade, and division). USR (Unit Status Report) is a monthly requirement in which they crunch many of the numbers. They maintain all the CBRN equipment in a unit and provide training to the unit on CBRN tasks and equipment like detection of agents, personal decon, protection, unmasking procedures and deliberate decon. The vast majority are in other than CBRN units. Chemical Companies are usually the big three: recon, decon, smoke. They conduct chemical reconnaissance with the M93 Fox and similar systems. They provide the expertise and equipment for a deliberate decon of a unit (pax and vehicles). They provide battle field obscurants, most commonly smoke. They lay smoke in support of maneuver units. Recently WMD Response teams have popped up in the Guard and Reserve side that have chemical soldiers along with radiation specialists and EOD.
There are nine countries known to have nuclear weapons, including China, Russia, and North Korea, also India and Pakistan who share a border and a dislike for each other. There about 20 countries that have or are suspected to have chemical weapons, and eight to ten that are strongly suspected to have biological weapons (anthrax, plague, etc). Since 2011 Chlorine Gas has been used in Syria an estimated 100 times. Chlorine is not illegal it is a disinfectant. It is used to treat drinking water and swimming pool water. It is used in paints, textiles, insecticides and PVC to name a few products, making it is very easy to obtain. Using it as a weapon is internationally illegal. When released, as a gas, it produces a green cloud, and when breathed it breaks down the mucus membranes in the airways creating fluid. A person can drown in his own fluids. There is no antidote, just stop breathing and get away from the cloud, but the damage is permanent. In April 2017 another gas attack was used in Syria. That time it was Sarin or nerve gas. It is colorless and odorless, and even at low concentrations death can occur within one to ten minutes if the antidote “Atropine” is not injected. Symptoms of nerve gas are convulsions, foaming mouths, blurry vision, difficulty breathing, – death. All soldiers, in line units, are issued a spring-loaded atropine syringe along with their protective mask. Just stick it against your leg and it injects atropine.
According to South Korean intelligence, North Korea has been building chemical weapons since 1980, and is estimated to have between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of different chemical and biological weapons, including anthrax, smallpox, and the plague. Much of which can be delivered with artillery, which is hidden in tunnels and caves very close to the DMZ. Twenty-five million people live in the vicinity of Seoul, South Korea, within range of that artillery. Japanese intelligence believes that North Korea has developed missiles capable of delivering nerve gas. War in Korea would be chemical. Many CBRN soldiers think that a mission of the Chemical Branch, at US Army Human Resource Command, is to try to get all CBRN soldier to Korea, for at least one tour. I know several career CBRN soldiers who have not been to Korea, but most have.
In their initial entry training, (basic training or officer basic) every soldier in the Army goes through a gas chamber filled with CS gas (riot tear gas). They enter the chamber while wearing their gas mask, then on command they remove their mask and state their name, rank, date of birth or anything else the chamber operator dreams up to make sure they get a good dose of the gas, then they exit the chamber and blow their nose, maybe throw up, and flush their eyes with water but do not touch the eyes (that makes it worse). Every soldier in the Army does that at least once a year. The purpose is to give them confidence in their protective (gas) mask. Soldiers are trained to get their mask on within nine seconds. Every company in the Army has a CBRN NCO (non-commissioned officer) (sergeant), and a CBRN Room, which stores, not only a protective mask for every soldier, but a complete MOPP suit. That is an acronym for Mission Oriented Protective Posture. The CBRN Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST). Top with hood, bottom, boots, and gloves all attached together to keep unseen things from getting to your skin. It’s lightweight, but it is still hot! Training in PPE gear in the winter is not too bad, it just tires you out soon, in the summer it can be hell. CBRN officers and sergeants are careful to incorporate rest periods in full PPE training.
The CBRN Room also stores chemical and radiological detection and decontamination equipment. The CBRN NCO, not only maintains the room and equipment, but participates in training planning, in order to incorporate CBRN into training. Then conducts or supervises CBRN training. The position calls for a Sergeant E-5, at company level. There is a Staff Sergeant E-6 in the operations section of battalion headquarters, and a Sergeant First Class E-7 at brigade headquarters, along with a Chemical Corps Captain.
Soldiers in the US Army Chemical Corps are called “Dragon Soldiers”. The Dragon, a legendary creature, symbolizes the fire and destruction of chemical warfare.
Fort Leonard Wood is the home of the Chemical Center, School and Museum. Chemical Corps officers and enlisted personnel take their basic and advanced courses there, plus special courses, so career 74D’s keep returning to Fort Leonard Wood for, not only specialty courses, but required military education. The standards are a little higher for 74D, an ASVAB score of 100 in ST (skilled technical), which is composed of the following ASVAB tests, GS – General Science, VE – Verbal Expression, MK – Mathematics Knowledge, and MC – Mechanical Comprehension. The course is also intellectually challenging. Comments from 74D graduates are stay awake, pay attention in class, take notes, and apply yourself. The 84th Chemical Battalion, which runs 74D AIT has the newest facility in the Army. Battalion and Company offices and class rooms downstairs, and classrooms and student dorms upstairs in a giant five story complex. Like living in a hotel and going downstairs for your conference. After physical training of course. Students learn CBRN Room Operations (supply, maintenance, training, etc), and biological agents, chemical agents, radiation detection and response, hazardous materials/toxic industrial chemicals, operational decontamination, thorough decontamination, mass casualty decontamination, and basic chemical/biological detection. They really learn how to decontaminate (wash) a vehicle, while wearing a spaceman suit. A lot of time is spent, in MOPP gear, doing hands on in the Chemical Defense Training Facility on Leonard Wood, and there is a field training exercise (FTX). One former student wrote that during a class on some real kinky stuff, the instructor stopped and said; “If you ever really see this, something in the world has gone terribly wrong”. Students get National Hazmat Certification before they graduate from AIT. Students get to keep cell phones, ipads and computers, just not during the day in class. A 74D Specialist, who is now a company CBRN NCO, recently made a youtube video, in which she said that she failed a couple areas and was recycled to another AIT class, making her AIT 13 weeks. Study.
A Sergeant First Class 74D, who was recently a Drill Sergeant at the Chemical School, had this to say; “You will learn the basics of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Operation. What that entails, is learning Decon, Recon, Smoke. Detection, protection, and effects of agents. You will also learn CBRN Room operations and how to maintain all the equipment. One of the most critical tasks you will do in AIT is the Chemical Defense Training Facility (CDTF) where you will be operating in a live Chemical environment. The cadre will deliberately contaminate area with VX nerve agent. You will actually see him/her place a live roach on a vehicle and the roach will die. Then you will employ the portable decon systems (whatever is in the Army’s inventory) to the vehicles in the facility. Once training is complete, the soldier will have to diff chemical protection gear using the exiting procedures. The last item to be removed will be the mask once you make it to the clear side. You will be in the buff with your mask on taking a shower. Then you will be moved to an area and given “all clear” to remove mask and get dressed. You will also conduct a convoy live fire and advance range learning the small arms I.e. .50 cal and MK 19. You will conduct two FTXs (Field Training Exercise) during AIT in which the last FTX you will conduct as a chemical platoon with primary focus on decon ops and force protection. That’s it in a nutshell. Plenty of opportunities post military. Focus on obtaining a specialty if possible. Tech Escort will open a lot of doors. Smoke has been turned over to the Engineer Corps.”
Two types of assignments can come after 74D AIT at Fort Leonard, Missouri, to a chemical unit, or to a non-chemical unit. Assignment to a chemical unit means you’re with CBRN soldiers doing CBRN work, but most are assigned to non-chemical units, which usually means that they are the only CBRN specialist in the company. My wild guess calculation is that a 74D AIT graduate has about a 75% plus, probability of being assigned to a non-chemical unit. They walk into a company, as a slick sleeve private, and are expected to be a CBRN expert. That makes AIT doubly important.
I found several negative comments from former 74D’s, that they were used as clerks, or drivers, or as the First Sergeant’s “gofer”. Those were usually from new 74D’s in support units, that did not frequently train with their CBRN equipment. I personally saw that happen in support units, but not in combat units. By the same token, I found comments from 74D’s who enjoyed learning other skills. The smart, hard workers, who took whatever task they were assigned as their mission, and performed every job to the best of their ability, with a positive attitude, ended up being promoted and placed in charge of a CBRN room.
If you become the First Sergeant’s “gofer”, become the best gofer possible. As a First Sergeant, you learn the gofers on whom you can depend to get things done, when you need help. Those are the soldiers, the First Sergeant will go out of his way to help, when the soldier needs help. The greatest reward for old sergeants, is seeing young soldiers, they’ve mentored, rise up through the ranks and succeed. Besides maintaining a positive attitude and being a hard worker, the 74D who is aggressive in pushing for CBRN training, usually establishes himself or herself as a key member of the company headquarters.
Below is the Company Headquarters of an Airborne Infantry Company;
Title Rank/Grade Branch/MOS
Company Commander Captain 0-3 Infantry
Executive Officer First Lieutenant 0-2 Infantry
First Sergeant First Sergeant E-8 11B5P
Supply Sergeant Staff Sergeant E-6 92Y3P
Senior Radio Operator Sergeant E-5 11B2P
CBRN NCO Sergeant E-5 74D2P
Armorer Specialist E-4 92Y1P
Radio Operator Private First Class E-3 11B1P
So, what can you do, when enlisting, to try to insure that you don’t get assigned to a support company somewhere, that only does CBRN training once a year at the gas chamber? Get the airborne option. Jumping out of airplanes. The largest unit to which a new airborne qualified 74D would be assigned, would be the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The 82nd does have many support companies, as well as the combat units, but I guarantee you, no company in the 82nd Airborne Division does half-assed training. There have been many 74D’s assigned as company CBRN NCO’s straight out of AIT, most have succeeded and were promoted to sergeant in a couple years.
This is a true 74D story. In 2008, when the economy took a nose dive (recession), a 32 year old man, married with their first child due soon, was working at a pharmacy, when he met an Army Recruiter. A guaranteed paycheck and free health care sounded good, plus his family had a record of military service, but he had never been around the military. He enlisted in July 2008. Basic Combat Training and 74D AIT was at Fort Leonard Wood, from there he was assigned to the 62nd Chemical Company at Fort Lewis, Washington. The 62nd deployed to Kuwait, for a year, where he trained Kuwait National Guard in CBRN hazard detection, mitigation, and decontamination. Upon returning from deployment, in 2010, now a Sergeant and 36 years old, he volunteered for airborne school, he attended the CBRN Dismounted Reconnaissance Course at Fort Leonard Wood, and was assigned to the 82nd Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment (CRD), which was attached to the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado.
Every Special Forces Group has a 28 man CRD attached. The CRD is broken down into 4 man teams. Team Leader – Sergeant First Class, Assistant Team Leader – Staff Sergeant, and two Sergeant CBRN NCO’s. The teams are often split to two men and attached to Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODA). In other words, an A-Team. They don’t go through special forces training, and they don’t wear a green beret, they wear a maroon beret, but they go with an A-Team doing what it does. Comments from Green Berets about their attached 74D’s are usually; “They hang with us or they can’t hang. We soon find out.” This 74D sergeant trained in document and media exploitation and analysis, biometric collection, and unknown substance identification. In 2013, he set up and operated an Exploitation Analysis Center (forensic lab) in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, and another in support of French Special Operations Forces in Burkina Faso. In 2015, he went back to Africa, moved everything, and worked with Combat Applications Group (Delta), FBI, and NSA. There was big news in 2017 about four green berets ambushed and killed in Africa. Two of those killed, weren’t actually green berets, but were 74D’s from the CRD, attached to that Special Forces A-Team. One was posthumously promoted to Sergeant First Class, and awarded the Silver Star.
In 2016, he was selected to come back to Fort Leonard Wood and be an instructor at the CBRN Advanced Leaders Course, which he did through 2019. He says that training and mentoring the young sergeants, for higher positions was one of the most satisfying jobs, so far, of his career.
His official resume lists the following Army schools; Basic Leaders Course, CBRN Advanced Leaders Course, CBRN Senior Leaders Course, Combat Lifesaver Course, Combatives Level 1, Training/Operations NCO Course, Basic Radiology Safety, Hazardous Materials Technician, Technical Escort (that is really how to fight terrorists while escorting VIP’s), CBRN Dismounted Reconnaissance, Exploitation Analysis Center, SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) (that’s a tough one), Basic Airborne, Air Assault, Anti-terrorism Officer, Equal Opportunity Leaders Course, Small Group Instruction Course, Foundation Instructor Facilitator Course, Master Resilience Training, and Army Recruiter Course. He is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management with American Military University.
That has been the adventure, so far, of Sergeant First Class Jeff Escott, an Army Recruiter, at the Rolla, Missouri Army Recruiting Office. If this sounds interesting, talk to SFC Jeff Escott.