By: Lt.Col. of Engineers Nicolas Gerardo Pietrobelli
CO of the CBRN Engineers Company and Emergency Support 601
The Argentine Republic adhered to a series of international treaties in which it expresses the will not produce and use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) in any situation.
The WMD or CBRN cause indiscriminate effects, whose direct and indirect action not only affects the ground forces, but inevitably also the civilian population, the environment and / or the material infrastructure of the area where they are employed, all with an intensity and to an unpredictable extent.
The capacity to respond to CBRN incidents must be maintained for all types of military operations. This CBRN defense capability will not be improvised and a period will be necessary so that, both individually and collectively, the required levels of operation can be achieved, for which a great amount of time is required in the preparation of personnel as well as specific equipment for this type of mission.
In this sense:
1) The greater the industrial capacity of a country, the greater the possibility of issuing emission of toxic industrial material (TIM). These materials constitute in themselves a potential danger that affects the areas in which they are located. The usual manufacturing, storage and transport processes do not pose a high risk. However, intentional or accidental release of these materials in the area where military operations are carried out may affect them.
2) TIMs include toxic radiological, chemical and biological compounds in a variety of industrial, commercial, research, medical or even domestic applications. The increase in TIMs means that the potential exposure to them poses a risk that should not be ignored in military operations.
3) The issue of TIM in certain circumstances may have an impact on the operations, due to the danger they represent. In any type of military operation, the areas contaminated with TIM or places close to the risk areas should be avoided, whenever possible.
4) To deal with the effects of TIMs, it will be taken into account that the usual means of CBRN defense available by the military units may not be effective, so specific means will be needed to deal with their issuance.
Within the means that make up the Argentine Army, the Engineers combat arms will have primary responsibility in the assessment, evaluation, detection and decontamination for the effective CBRN defense. The CBRN defense will constitute, within the Engineers system, an activity within the protection function of personnel and means.
That is why within the structure of the Argentine Army is the element dedicated to these operations the CBRN Engineers Company and Emergency Support 601, unit whose mission is to support, through advice, protection, detection and decontamination in an environment, chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological to the Armed Forces in an area of military operations, and to the Security Forces, Firefighters or Police Forces in areas of a catastrophe or emergency.
The tasks that will be carried out within the specific activity will be primarily those of individual and collective protection, quantitative and qualitative detection of the type of elements used in the weapons used and their decontamination, whether individual, collective and equipment, in addition, will give advice and intelligence on what concerns the CBRN environment and will carry out the corresponding acknowledgments when the situation requires it.
This Unit is located in the center of the Argentine Republic, next to the location of the Nuclear Power Plants that the country has and in line with the so-called national petrochemical corridor that includes several Argentine provinces, in turn all the material is prepared to be airborne to where it is required in the country or its eventual deployment as support to other nations.
The Argentine Nation has to face these risks with personnel of the Armed Forces, as well as of the Security Forces. The Navy, and the Argentine Air Force, have specific platoons to deal with small contingencies within their bases. That is why the great contingencies are addressed by highly qualified Police Firefighters personnel, along with personnel of the Argentine Army.
The CBRN Engineers Company and Emergency Support 601, is a national leader in the subject, being a reference of other organizations both in the capacitation of personnel to deal with this problem, and in the operational capacity of its staff to execute their functions.
That is why some of the most prestigious national organizations have among their means of response the CBRN Engineers Company and Emergency Support 601, as it is the case of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ARN) of Argentina, the entity that administers the three nuclear power plants in the country, executing annual exercises in the plants, where all response organizations and populations near nuclear power plants are involved.
The Company is divided for its best use in four sections, two of which are exclusive to address the issue of CBRN, within these are two detection platoons equipped with detection means that allow personnel to identify the risk to which they are exposed, colorimetric detectors are available, which are used for the detection of liquid chemical agents (M8 and M9 detector papers), colorimetric detection tubes and colorimetric reagent kits that are used for the detection of chemical agents in the form of gases and vapors; and detectors by flame spectrometry (FS) AP4C and AP2C of the company Proengin, with which it is able to detect vapors, aerosols or suspensions of chemical agents, pure compounds and / or with complex mixtures, "precursors", and the products of degradation of the agents, for the radiological detection there is available IDENTIFINDER and personal dosimeters of direct and indirect reading, and equipment of greater magnitude and resolution that are delivered by the ARN when a type of radiological emergency is developed. For biological identification, FILM ARRAY equipment is installed in fixed laboratories.
The purpose of the execution of the decontamination tasks will be to avoid or reduce the effects caused by the aggressive CBRN, by means of a quick and effective removal or neutralization of the dangers represented by the conformation of a CBRN environment for the Forces. Because it will not always be possible to avoid contamination, decontamination should be considered one of the most important actions in CBRN protection, to recover the combat power of the Forces, for which the Company has four decontamination groups.
All the decontamination equipment available is from the Italian company CRISTANINI S.p.A., with which high standards of effectiveness have been achieved in this difficult task.
High Performance Decontamination inflatable tents (for multiple casualties), TACTICAL STEAM DECON MODULE (multipurpose decontamination tents TSDM), PORTABLE SMALL DECONTAMINATION SYSTEM, for manual use, capacity 1,5 l (PSDS 1.5 MIL), PORTABLE DECONTAMINATION SYSTEM, for manual use, capacity 10 l. (PSDS 10 MIL), SANIJET C 921 multipurpose decontamination equipment, SANIJETGUN multipurpose decontamination lance, with which the decontaminant BX 24 is used, decontaminant multipurpose and biodegradable; For the decontamination of sensitive and electronic equipment, the DECO VACOON system is available, with its SX 34 decontaminant in aerosol.
The Argentine Army aware that this problem is latent in today's world continues to intensify its capabilities and has acquired the RAPID DEPLOYABLE UNIT FOR DECONTAMINATION / DETOXIFICATION (RI/CBRN – SKID CBRN)
TRAINING AND QUALIFICATION
The training is very important to face this type of contingencies, the Argentine Army, aware of this, since the year 1960 constituted, the "School of Toxic Warfare", that with the passing of the years derive, after several changes of denomination and location, in this Company.
The Company provides basic courses to all Army personnel, and advanced courses for the Engineers personnel that will later form part of the same, or will have positions within the advisory staffs.
Open courses are also taught to other Armed Forces, to the Security Forces and to the organizations of the National State that need this type of knowledge, especially to the health institutions that have the agreements to supply the medical and health personnel that will act before a real job.
Likewise, practical exercises are developed, where all the participants in this type of incident are included, as it was already named with the ARN, private chemical associations and companies, with the dangerous means transport companies, with the epidemiological reference hospitals, etc. As well as actively participating with the Armies of the South American Region to obtain the best results in the event of possible CBRN incidents.
It is noteworthy that originally the CBRN Engineers Company and Emergency Support 601, was also created to support society in the event of disasters that include CBRN factors, as well as others that affect the population, for which Specific equipment is available, such as road equipment and specific tools to carry out rescue missions.
The Company has the means to provide its own water supply using equipment manufactured by the Argentine Army, mounted on a trailer, with micro filters and reverse osmosis treatment, called FOI, with which it is possible to supply clean and treated water to the population and decontamination equipment, these particular equipment are manufactured by the sister company of Water Engineers 601, element that acts very in contact with this company because of the similarity of missions they have.
Faced with the eventuality and new growing importance of detecting explosive devices, along with devices with aggressive CBRN, the School of Engineers has an EOD training center, where company personnel are trained in this particular case.
The Company of Engineers CBRN and Emergency Support 601, accompanies all the main activities developed by the Nation, that is why during the "Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018", all its personnel were deployed to support this event of large crowds, staffing to make detections before the athletes occupy the Olympic Village (1,440 apartments were registered in six buildings), and then with detection stations in all sports facilities, also from the beginning of the Olympic Games to the end, two collective decontamination stations were maintained.
Of course, during the development of the largest event of our country in 2018, as was the summit of G 20, the Unit was deployed in its entirety with the response forces that were established, forming three detection and decontamination groups in close proximity to the places where the biggest events of the presidents' summit took place, which developed more than 50 meetings, attended by approximately 20,000 people from all over the world. Proof of this was the visit of the president of the French Republic, EMMANUEL MACRON, to the decontamination station that was next to the biggest theater in Argentina, the Teatro Colon.