At Sea (NNS) -- Crew members aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) donned gas masks
and chemical protection suits
to treat mock mass casualties during a series of chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) defense drills recently.
The drills are consistent with the normal basic-phase training routine ships go through to prepare for deployment, but according to ship Operations Officer Cmdr. Paul Shock
, Bonhomme Richard is going through the training a lot sooner than most.
"Normally, (ships) would start this training three months after a PMA (planned maintenance availability), and it would last about five months,” said Shock. “But we started four days after PMA, and we’re scheduled to meet all of our training objectives in one month.”
In order to achieve these goals, experts from Naval Station San Diego’s Afloat Training Group (ATG) went underway with the ship and her crew to assess the Sailors' war-fighting skills. While there, the ATG also provided training on various scenarios - including a chemical or biological attack on the ship.
“Prior to ships making major deployments, especially to hostile environments, they go through CBR training,” said Chief Damage Controlman (SW/AW) James Boyd. “It’s the prevention of endangering personnel and loss of life in the event of a chemical attack.”
Boyd, who is also a member of the ship’s Damage Control Training Team, stressed how important it is for the crew members to maintain awareness of the possibility of CBR attacks.
“It’s not just a one-time thing. Chemical attacks don’t just happen overseas. They can take place in our own backyard; it shouldn’t be taken for granted.”
Bonhomme Richard started 2002 forward-deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and it is ending the year conducting an intensive training cycle designed to prepare the ship and crew for a possible deployment in the upcoming months.
“We’re at a point today that ships are usually at three months out of PMA,” Shock said. “I think the crew is well ahead of every ship along the waterfront.”