Cover: Developing Navy Capability to Recover Forces in Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Hazard Environments

Developing Navy Capability to Recover Forces in Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Hazard Environments

Published Jan 28, 2014

by Adam C. Resnick, Steven Knapp

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Research Questions

  1. Which amphibious assault ship should receive contaminated forces?
  2. Which connector craft is best to bring contaminated ashore forces back to the sea base?
  3. What procedures should be used to decontaminate the forces when they arrive aboard the ships?
  4. How soon will connectors and ships be able to return to full military capability in support of the mission?

Recovering amphibious forces can be complicated if ashore forces are attacked with chemical, biological, or radiological weapons. These forces may cross-contaminate others with whom they come in contact. And if contaminants spread to equipment and vehicles, creating persistent hazards, those items may pose an additional cross-contamination risk. Although the preference is to decontaminate ashore forces in the operating environment or in a clean area elsewhere on land, this is not always feasible. Using a scenario involving a Marine Expeditionary Unit of 3,000 Marines — 300 total contaminated service members, including 24 contaminated litter casualties and 75 contaminated ambulatory casualties — the researchers assess current policies and capabilities pertaining to the recovery and decontamination of ashore forces aboard ships and identify policy options the Navy could pursue to better perform this mission. They develop a set of policies to increase the Navy's capability to recover and transport contaminated land forces to amphibious assault groups and propose doctrine to support operational decisions.

Key Findings

The ship selected to receive forces should have sufficient capacity in its medical department to receive patients in a reasonable amount of time.

  • The Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) has the most medical department resources and should be considered to receive contaminated forces when necessary.
  • A Landing Platform Dock (LPD-17) can be used to receive forces when casualties require urgent medical attention, and may represent a lower opportunity cost.

Selection of a connector craft depends on the number of forces to be recovered and how many require medical care.

  • When casualties require urgent medical attention, aircraft, such as the CH-46 or CH-53E should be used to recover forces.
  • In cases where casualties require urgent medical care and the number of forces to recover exceeds aircraft capacity, an aircraft is recommended to recover casualties and a landing craft (LCU) to recover the balance of forces.
  • If the number of contaminated forces exceeds the passenger capacity of a single craft performing a single sortie, the next-largest connector should be used.

The Navy should stage expedient deck decontamination stations.

  • Damage control crew can stage expedient showers with fire hoses directed so that contaminated runoff drains off the ship.
  • This increases the throughput rate for patient decontamination.
  • Keeping contaminants toward the downwind aft section of amphibious assault ships and keeping liquid and vapor hazards away from the fore sections helps establish a hazard buffer.
  • This process will also expedite the process of decontaminating the ship and returning it to full military capability.

Recommendations

  • Develop a decision process for recovery operations; decide which ship(s) will receive the contaminated forces and how they will be transported to the ship.
  • Employ expedient deck decontamination processes aboard amphibious assault ships to increase personnel decontamination throughput per hour, using expedient patient decontamination stations on the flight deck and expedient showers in the well deck.

The research described in this report was sponsored by OPNAV N81 and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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