Scientists experience challenges faced by military personnel firsthand in defense exercise

ECBC Scientist, Jennifer Sekowski is fitted with a protective suit against explosives. | Courtesy of Edgewood Chemical Biological Center
Scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) recently experienced challenges that soldiers face with personal protective equipment through the Scientists in the Foxhole Program.

This program is a joint effort between the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Command, which allows scientists tasked with development of countermeasures to work with and experience what CBRNE operatives face.

In October, Jennifer Sekowski, Jason Guicheteau and Alex Miklos worked with the 759th Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Company at Fort Irwin in San Bernardino County, California. Lt. Col. Mary Miller accompanied the scientists in a demonstration of munitions that CBRN personnel face and how protective equipment can limit performance. The ECBC representatives also wore protective equipment worn by operatives.

“The weight and the heat of the bomb suits was oppressive,” Sekowski said. “You can’t hear very well and you can only see directly in front of you. You feel very disconnected from the outside world. Wearing butyl gloves removes your fine motor skills so you can’t push small buttons. The experience gave me an entirely new appreciation of what user-friendly handheld detection devices means for these soldiers.”

Miller states that for future portions of the project, there would likely be engineers in attendance. Military personnel would also visit laboratory sites.