RICHLAND, Wash. – Given its mission, the 792nd Chemical Company is trained for a variety of unexpected situations. However, the last year presented unimaginable challenges that placed training on hold.
“I have been here three years,” said Capt. Brandon Cheney, commander of the Washington National Guard's 792nd Chemical Battalion, based out of Grandview. “The first year of my command, we supported a National Training Center rotation. Last year we were supporting the state’s COVID-19 response. This year is our first year we were able to train on our specialization skills. Our Soldiers were eager to gear up and start training again.”
As part of its annual training plan, the unit contracted with the HAMMER Federal Training Center, which provides realistic, hands-on, up-to-date training on different roles a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear specialist would conduct.
“Our Soldiers are able to get training in both a realistic field environment and in the classroom, so the facility is a great resource,” said Cheney.
While much of the unit was part of the COVID-19 response the past 15 months, 40 Guard personnel took part in a number of different drills, including a man-down and chemical sampling exercise.
“The man down exercise puts our teams in a high-stress, low-light environment where they have to find and extract an injured team member in a contaminated environment,” said Cheney. “We pump fog into the obstacle lane and create a sense of stress for our Soldiers.”
Staff Sgt. Darin Munhall, the unit’s training noncommissioned officer, used to be with the 10th Civil Support Team and says his years on the 22-person CST bring knowledge to the team’s exercises.
“We are taking things we did with the CST and providing it to our traditional Guardsmen,” said Munhall.
In the chemical sampling exercise, Guardsmen gather samples from a suspected domestic terrorist work area. The exercise includes lab equipment, photos of targets, hit lists and mysterious powder.
“It is similar to what you might have done in science class, except you are helping the authorities paint a picture,” said Cheney. “Overall, this is invaluable training, and I’m glad our Soldiers got the chance to do this.”