Camp Hovey soldiers clean up in decon training

Soldiers wash a Multiple Launch Rocket System vehicle at Camp Hovey on Wednesday. Troops from 2nd Infantry Division’s 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery took pointers from the 4th Chemical Company on the five-step process of decontaminating their vehicles and soldiers of potential biological agents.


By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 24, 2006

CAMP HOVEY, South Korea — If you thought scrubbing the yellow dust blowing in from China off your vehicle took time and attention to detail, try removing anthrax.

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division’s 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery learned all about decontamination during training Wednesday, scrubbing their Multiple Launch Rocket System vehicles and their fellow soldiers as if an enemy had attacked them with biological agents.

The five-stage decontamination process isn’t difficult but does require attention to detail.

“Just like anything, if they don’t practice it, it will whittle away,” said Staff Sgt. Raymond Ross of the Brigade Special Troops Battalion’s 4th Chemical Company, 3rd Decontamination Platoon.

Ross and others in his unit showed 6-37 how to decontaminate themselves, should they ever need to do so in a combat area.

The first stage included washing each vehicle for about 10 minutes.

Soldiers must pay attention to the nooks and crannies, Ross said.

“If they don’t do it at a 45-degree angle, they’re going to get backsplash,” Ross said.

Even while wearing protective clothing, most soldiers say they would rather keep their contact with, say, bubonic plague to a minimum.

They move the vehicles on to the next station, where they apply Super Tropical Bleach. This isn’t your average laundry whitener. This stuff would consume a layer of clothing in about 15 minutes. For training purposes Wednesday, soldiers used water.

The vehicle goes on for internal decontamination while the soldiers go through self-decontamination using a charcoal-based mixture.

Once the soldiers are decontaminated and the bleach has penetrated for at least 30 minutes, the vehicle gets rinsed off.

During the final step, soldiers use a scanner to look for leftover contaminants. If any are found, the process starts from scratch.

An efficient group could decontaminate the five vehicles and their occupants in about three hours once all had reached the staging point, said soldiers from the 4th Chemical Company.

The training was familiar territory for 6-37 Bravo Company Sgt. Omar Stephens. However, he said, many soldiers are fresh from basic training and need to think about biological warfare, considering today’s enemies.

“It’s good for the new guys to at least get training once,” Stephens said.

The training was shorter and easier than expected, said Pvt. David Lindzy, who added that he thought the soldiers around him learned what to do fairly quickly.

“I know all of my guys would take care of me,” he said.

Soldiers wash a Multiple Launch Rocket System vehicle as if it had been exposed to a biological agent during decontamination training at Camp Hovey on Wednesday.