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U.S., S. Korea prepare for chemical warfare

A vehicle of the U.S. Army's 23rd Chemical Battalion goes through a chemical decontamination point on a South Korean Army installation in Taegu, South Korea. U.S. and South Korean chemical troops joined for afternoon of mock chemical warfare drill.

FRANKLIN FISHER / S&S

By FRANKLIN FISHER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 28, 2003

TAEGU, South Korea — Ask one platoon sergeant in a U.S. Army chemical unit in South Korea how his troops benefit by training with their South Korean counterparts and he starts by talking about blind dates.

“You ever been on a blind date?” asked Sgt. 1st Class Walter Koski of 2nd Platoon, 267th Chemical Company, 23rd Chemical Battalion, from Camp Carroll. “It’s kind of like bein’ on a blind date. When the balloon goes up, you don’t want to be comin’ out here and having a blind date with the ROK Army.

“This way, when the chemicals come across the DMZ, we know what the ROK Army is capable of, they know what we’re capable of. We know their tactics, techniques and procedures, they know our tactics, techniques and procedures. And if we have to come together to do a joint decon, we can do that. We’re not learning at the last minute.”

The battalion’s main wartime job is decontaminating highways, airfields, supply depots and other “fixed sites” the enemy might hit with chemical agents. The troops would work closely with South Korean Army chemical units, spraying down those areas with decontaminants, especially in a war’s early stages.

On Tuesday, about 30 members of the 267th Chemical Company were on a South Korean Army installation in north Taegu with soldiers from South Korea’s 50th Homeland Reserve Division to practice decontaminating vehicles and troops.

Under the afternoon’s mock-battle scenario, the enemy had fired “WMD,” or weapons of mass destruction, hitting an important roadway with chemical agents. The U.S. and South Korean chemical troops had to move chemical trucks through the area, spraying water to simulate decontaminants.

In the final phase, the troops moved to a separate “clean” area, where the South Korean and U.S. trucks and troops were decontaminated.

“If the enemy uses WMD, these are the folks that are going to clean it up,” said Lt. Col. Bill Barnett, the 23rd Chemical Battalion’s commanding officer.

“Our wartime mission is going to require us to work with Korean units,” said Capt. Douglas Delp, the 267th Chemical Company’s commanding officer.

One major benefit of these exercises is an exchange of insights.

Koski, for example, picked up a few things Tuesday. When his unit decontaminates vehicles, a soldier with a hose sprays from the bottom of the vehicle and works up, eventually having to scale a ladder to get at its upper parts. But the South Koreans set up a metal arch-like rack fitted with spray nozzles at various points, some high enough to cover the vehicles’ tops.

And when the Americans decontaminate troops, the process ends with the soldier still wearing the battle dress uniform, or BDUs. But Koski saw that the South Koreans decontaminate soldiers all the way to their underwear, with a shower to follow.

“Ours doesn’t extend that far so that might be something we might want to look into,” Koski said.

Pvt. Tricortney Blandin is a chemical operations specialist in Koski’s platoon. For her, the benefit was getting a first-hand look at how her unit would have to work chemical operations with the South Koreans in wartime.

“It’s practice,” said Blandin. “Like if it really happens in the real world, or they need us, we’ll actually know how to do everything.”


On a South Korean Army installation in Taegu, South Korea, Korean troops practice decontamination techniques during day of chemical warfare training with their counterparts from U.S. Army's 23rd Chemical Battalion.
FRANKLIN FISHER / S&S

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