Soldiers take on chemical training at Fort McCoy

Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 6:38 PM CDT
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Today, more cleaning and sanitizing practices are in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

However, decontaminating is something the Army has always done when it comes to chemicals and nuclear remains.

Thursday marked the second mission of three at Fort McCoy for the 318th Chemical Company.

The mission is a chemical training simulation in which soldiers work to clear contaminants including nuclear, biological, radiological, and chemical.

“If you don’t decontaminate your site properly or the vehicles, than you’ve contaminated everybody else around you,” explained Sgt. Ashlea Dixon with the Army Reserve. “We have to make sure everything is decontaminated-- the equipment, the roads, the troops, just so everybody is protected.”

The training breaks the platoon into different teams at various stations.

The goal is to create muscle memory, making adjustments where needed--similar to a basketball drill.

First Lieutenant Shelby Hensley who has been in the Army for eight year is in charge of the training.

“It is an amazing feeling [to lead this unit.] It’s actually very humbling because as you grow as a leader you don’t really consider how much of an impact you can have until you see where it’s actually occurring,” Hensley said.

Hensley explains the hope is that the unit won’t be activated, but to be prepared when they are needed.

She says it’s a good feeling to be able to restore people back to their missions.

“We’re able to execute decontamination, so getting the nasty stuff off of equipment and people so that we can get people back to the fight faster and more efficiently and safely,” Hensley added.

The Company doing the simulation is from Alabama and it’s their first time training together since the pandemic hit back in March.

“We’re coming from 22 different states,” Hensley said. “So, myself I’m from California, my unit is based out of Alabama and we have soldiers coming from everywhere.”

As a result of the pandemic, Fort McCoy has added new protocols including temperature checks, face coverings, hand washing stations, and limiting the number of soldiers in sleeping quarters.

For Sgt. Ashlea Dixon, the chemical training is great hands-on learning.

“We learn more when we get out here and actually do it,” Dixon said. “Our skills get more knowledgeable and better as we go.”

Once the company masters this training, they will move onto other missions ahead of deployment.

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