NEWS | Feb. 5, 2014

401st Chemical Company Soldiers conduct decontamination operations in Kuwait

By Sgt Ryan Halleck, U.S. Army

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait – The sun in Kuwait might have disappeared beneath the horizon, but the temperature hasn’t dipped much. It’s actually increased by about 10 degrees for the Soldiers of the 401st Chemical Company. They donned their mission-oriented protective postures (MOPP) level four gear, which is used when the highest degree of chemical and biological protection is required. The procedure comes as second nature to the chemical company Soldiers after extensively training for their upcoming mission.

Staff Sgt. Shafeek Karamat, who deployed to Iraq in 2006 to conduct chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) decontamination operations, geared up. Now, nearly a decade later, he’s back in the Middle East as the CBRN platoon sergeant for the 401st.

Karamat said his platoon has been training day and night for the past three weeks in preparation of a decontamination operation in Kuwait City, Kuwait, recently to support a chemical weapons operation training exercise with the 5th Special Forces Group.

“Our job is to ensure [Soldiers of the 5th Special Forces Group] are decontaminated safely,” said Karamat. “They’re directly dependent on us to decontaminate them and ensure they are back and ready to go for the next mission.”

Soldiers of the 5th Special Forces Group set out on a mission to clear a building suspected of being used to produce sarin chemical agents and recover any chemical weapons during the training exercise.

“Sarin is a chemical warfare agent,” said Karamat. “Real world, the threat level is extremely high. My Soldiers have to conduct precise, meticulous decontamination on the troops they’re dealing with.”

Adjacent to the suspected target building, 401st Soldiers determined the wind direction and established a safe area for their decontamination line.

At the front of the decontamination line was Spc. Selina Clancy, a CBRN specialist with the chemical company. Her mission is to direct all incoming personnel and instruct them on how to navigate the decontamination line.

“I have to assert myself,” said Clancy, speaking through her gas protection mask. “I’m a little specialist talking to these big Special Forces guys.”

Clancy directed them to first drop their weapons, ammunition, explosives, and any equipment into large plastic bags. After reducing down to only their MOPP gear, which consists of an over garment, mask and hood, footwear covers, and gloves, the Special Forces Soldiers proceeded past a line of red chemical lights signaling the beginning of the “hot zone.”

Next, the Soldiers stepped into small containers of a decontamination powder, which simulated super tropical bleach (STB) to decontaminate their boots. Then it was off to the next station, where more 401st Soldiers were ready to cut the Special Forces Soldiers from their hoods, over garments, and boot covers. Once out of their protective gear, the Soldiers were tested with the Joint Chemical Agent Detector (JCAD) for blister, nerve, and chlorine agents.

The last stop on the 401st decontamination line required Soldiers to hold their breath, take their masks off, and walk smartly past the line of green chemical lights, which represent the clean zone.

“We’ve been on standby for missions like this,” said Clancy. “This is probably the highest level of training that we’ve had regarding our actual jobs, so it’s excellent.”

From Iraq when he was conducting decontamination operations, to Kuwait where his Soldiers are now conducting decontamination operations, Karamat said his Soldiers are a reflection of his leadership and their dedicated training.

“They represent the 401st Chemical Company, the Army Reserves, and the CBRN world,” said Karamat.