borderwebnbc.jpg (19637 bytes)

School trains soldiers for nasty scenarios

NBCMAP_small.jpg (4718 bytes)
NBC students are trained to do everything while wearing their MOPP suits, which better equips them to deal with battlefields of the future.

Photos and story by Steve Snyder
Fort Dix Public Affairs Staff

“Yellow Rain” falls in Afghanistan. Sarin gas is unleashed in Tokyo subways. Iraq launches a chemical attack against Iran. Later, that country employs the same against Kurdish rebels. Unexplained symptoms form the “Gulf War syndrome,” afflicting many Americans and ruining what should be a triumphant homecoming.
Some experts fear we have seen the future. And it’s nasty.
To counter threats posed by military or terrorist use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons; the U.S. Army requires that every company, battery, or troop has a chemical NCO (MOS 54B), a school-trained NBC officer and a school-trained enlisted alternative. The triad becomes a command’s principal trainers for NBC defense. They advise their commander on everything falling under the NBC umbrella, including defense operations, training and equipment maintenance.
The basic required course in the NBC field is the Officer/NCO NBC Defense Course. The Fort Dix NBC School, located on Texas Avenue, offers the two-week, 80-hour course 13 times during the fiscal year to personnel from all the services,

NBCIN.jpg (48202 bytes)
Bill Feeney checks a student’s paperwork which was filled out wearing MOPP gear. NBC students are trained to do everything while wearing their MOPP suits, which better equips them to deal with battlefields of the future.

active and otherwise, and also accepts mission-essential Army civilians into classes. Senior Instructor Walt Keenan and colleague Bill Feeney also teach a 24-hour Officer/NCO NBC Refresher Course to update the training of graduates from the 80-hour course and design NBC Specialty Training Courses (NBCSTC) mainly for units here undergoing two-week Annual Training stints in the summer months.
“We tailor training to a unit’s needs,”says Feeney, explaining the rationale behind NBCSTC.
Specialty training courses vary in accordance to a unit’s strengths and weaknesses but, in general, four stages of instruction shape the agenda. In the leaders’ phase, a threat brief is forecast. The scenario calls for a battlefield use of nuclear weapons, methods of avoiding, protecting and decontaminating personnel and equipment are studied and NBC defense tactics are integrated into the unit’s critical mission tasks.
The formation of chemical action detection teams initiates the second phase. Attention is given to operating and maintaining chemical detection equipment, different monitoring and surveying techniques are used and uniform methods of marking, recording and reporting hazards are applied.
Radiological detection teams then operate and maintain chemical detection equipment, repeating the same cycle spun through by the chemical squads.
The last phase in specialty training involves decontamination operations.
Individual decontamination is practiced along with hasty decontamination (MOPP gear exchange and vehicle wash down) and a slower or deliberate decon.
In addition to the basic, refresher, and specialty training courses, plans are underfoot to offer eight-hours of instruction basically covering the same ground under the auspices of Domestic Preparedness Support Training. This study is designed to enhance the DoD support role in providing emergency

LECTURE.jpg (68781 bytes)
Senior instructor Walt Keenan, above, reviews material with his students from the basic Officer/NCO Defense Course.

response training to any national emergency caused by weapons of mass destruction. The NBC school, then, offers imposing curricula by anybody’s standards.
Classes are broken down, for the most part, into one-hour sessions. While the basic course, for instance, covers traditional areas of concern; how to correctly wear the Mission-Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear properly, etc., there’s also room for topics not likely to be explored in less specialized settings. The training schedule for the basic course ending last Friday included sessions devoted to the hazards of depleted uranium, radiological instruments, unit fallout prediction, automatic chemical agent alarms, decontamination equipment, environmental training, smoke operations, and hands-on testing for chemical/biological procedures.
Stepping outside and putting hands-on the sometimes-elaborate NBC paraphernalia nicely alleviates classroom sessions dealing with theory.

EXAMIN.jpg (57405 bytes)
DECON TIME-- Two students work on decontaminating their MOPP gear during a recent exercise at the Fort Dix NBC School on Texas Avenue. Walt Keenan and Bill Feeney run some of the most respected courses in the country at the school, giving impetus to Dix’s reputation as a fine place to learn - as well as train - for professional advancement. “Today, I see more soldiers that really want to be proficient in NBC-related tasks,” Feeney says.

Running such an operation, of course, requires not only finely tuned organizational skills but fierce dedication as well. Keenan and Feeney are up to the challenge.
Both men update their instructional skills by attending classes offered at other installations at least once a year. Senior instructor Keenan, for instance, has been through the chamber containing nerve gas (VX, GB or Sarin) at Fort McClellan, Ala., (the Army’s chemical school has since been moved to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.) many times. Feeney is also a veteran of the process.
“You have to believe in your equipment,” says the laconic Keenan, expressing an attitude almost Aristotelian in its reverence for the scientific method.
Keenan is hung up on NBC, appearing as obsessed on the topic as Hugh Hefner is with sex. He calls it “a fascinating field.” Keenan’s no newcomer to Fort Dix, either. He completed basic training here in 1972, instructed in NBC at Dix from 1983-88 and served as commandant of the NBC school here from 1989-92.
Born in Fort Bragg, N.Car. the son of a drill instructor, Kennan served two tours in Germany and one in Korea during 20 years of active duty.
The infantryman turned truck driver started specializing in NBC in 1976. He’s been at it ever since.
Feeney is a native of Philadelphia who was born in that city’s Germantown section. His father was a Marine who spent 10 years at Parris Island, training recruits. Bill himself spent 1970-73 in the Marine Corps, got out, and joined the New Jersey Army National Guard in the early 1980s, qualifying as an NBC NCO. In 1989 Feeney returned to active duty here, working at what was then called the high tech center (now the Battle Lab). He taught NBC skills and BNCOC classes.
“I like training soldiers, especially in tasks related to NBC,” Feeney admits.
He’s still in the NJNG, training with the 2nd Brigade, 254th Regiment at Sea Girt as operations sergeant.
“Today, I see more soldiers that really want to be proficient in NBC-related tasks,” Feeney says. He attributes the interest to the threat such weapons posed during Desert Storm.
Come hell, high water, or NBC attacks, troops trained at Fort Dix’s NBC school stand ready to take on the enemy.

Monday, April 29, 2002