For years, the U.S. Army taught soldiers about sniper fire, explosives and other traditional weapons of war, but now it is preparing them for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats at the Lewis-McChord Joint Base in Washington.
Training courses at the base covers how chemical agents affect the body and how to detect and protect against them. Chemical weapons often require little quantity to inflict potentially life-threatening effects on a large number of people. Chemical substances can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled or ingested. Even if the victim survives, they can have lifelong effects.
"The thread of a CBRN attack is always there," Sgt. 1st Class Romereo Paine, a CBRN noncommissioned officer, said.
During a recent class, examples of CBRN attacks were given, from mustard gas used in World War I to the recent sarin attacks in Syria. The course covered protective equipment that should be used in contaminated areas as well as other preventative measures that can be taken by detecting contaminated areas before reaching them.
As the possibility grows for enemy forces to utilize these agents, it becomes imperative that soldiers are prepared for them.
"Without having a soldier who has been through the course, the knowledge of CBRN in a unit is slim to none," Paine said. "These are skills that save lives."