Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Chemical and Biological Technologies Department
August 22, 2018
They traded test tubes and keyboards for fighter jets and robots. They awoke at dawn to start their day not with coffee, but with emergency drills. Instead of lab coats and goggles, they wore MOPP suits and gas masks. For nine Scientists on the Flight Line participants, training like a warfighter to increase their understanding of the battlefield provided great insights into real world applicability.
The week-long program is part of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department’s Scientists in Motion effort, which addresses knowledge gaps between scientists and the warfighter serving on the front lines. Scientists in Motion offers researchers on the forefront of product development a chance to experience a simulated chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) operational environment to gain a deeper understanding of how the end users ... the warfighters ... employ CBRNE defense products.
During the 2018 summer, the Department of Defense civilian scientists traveled to Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida, to train with the Air Force’s Air Combat Command 823 RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers) Squadron for the collaborative event.
“As a new scientist with the [Department of Defense], I’ve never seen how the end users ... the soldiers and airmen from all across the different services ... operate,” said Evan Bates, a participant from the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division and participant.
Participants wore mission-oriented protective posture (MOPP) suits, drove explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) robots, and were given a hands-on demonstration of chemical and biological detection devices. They also received EOD training on unexploded ordnances, rapid airfield damage repair and decontamination procedures, and spoke with warfighters about their needs in the field.
“Sitting at my desk at work, I’m not going to necessarily get that understanding because I don’t see first-hand what environments [warfighters] are put in, what kind of situations they have to work their way through,” said Shelby Bartram, a biomedical engineer at Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and Scientist on the Flight Line participant. “I think it’s an extremely valuable experience that I’d recommend to all engineers and scientists because I think it really helps you do your job better when you get back home.”
RED HORSE is a self-sufficient force that can perform damage repair required for aircraft launch, facility and utility system recovery. They also provide engineering support to allow weapons systems to operate in CBRNE-prone environments. One-on-one interaction with the squadron and participates provided an excellent opportunity for end-user engagement to ensure program managers and lab technicians develop warfighter-friendly tools, while ensuring proper protection.
DTRA CB has held 14 events since the program’s inception in 2015, providing more than 125 government program managers and lab technicians the opportunity to develop a stronger understanding of warfighter-driven scenarios. Events are hosted in conjunction with each branch of the military, as each service faces unique obstacles in a CBRNE environment.
By coordinating and funding these training sessions, DTRA CB helps ensure that warfighter tools are developed to the correct specifications, while considering the unique environments and rigors of the job