Fort Leonard Wood’s Chemical Defense Training Facility provides opportunities for Soldiers to train with dangerous chemicals they could potentially encounter in real-world scenarios.
Protecting the rest of the post’s population from the dangers of this realistic training environment is the job of chemical surety experts.
“The CDTF puts people in an environment that everyone else wants to stay out of,” said Bill Walker, one of the post’s five chemical surety officers — called chem surety for short. “Surety is a quality program that ensures leaders and workers are taking actions to comply with control measures.”
According to Walker, the program is designed to ensure that individuals working with toxic chemical agents are reliable, that the agent is secure and that both the individuals that work with the agents and the training conducted at the CDTF are safe.
To build that safe environment here, the chem surety office works to maintain what Walker calls “a culture of surety mindedness.”
“Ultimately, surety compliance is our culture,” Walker said. “Surety has to be ‘what we do,’ not ‘what we have to do.’ You have to have buy in. Then it becomes easier. This means we move a program from avoidance to, ‘let’s meet and discuss a path forward, shoulder to shoulder.’ To me, that is a successful surety program and one we have here on Fort Leonard Wood.”
According to Walker, to remain in compliance with surety programs, all aspects of the chemical training mission are inspected, no matter the quantities of chemicals used.
“That could mean from a soda can to a one-ton container,” Walker said. “All aspects of surety apply and are to be enforced. We have an aggressive program.”
According to Dan Murray, CDTF director, the chem surety team here does more than keep the post “standing fully inspection ready 365 days per year.”
“They establish local surety policy that nests with Army and (Department of Defense) policy, and where our local program encounters difficult ‘can’t comply’ situations, (they) advocate for sensible policy change,” he said.
Chem surety inspects safety, security, external support agencies, emergency response, mission operations conducted at the CDTF, medical support and surety management. Each aspect of the chemical mission is inspected at least twice a year.
“With a program like this, every level of command has an oversight and compliance requirement,” Walker added. “We keep that sense of urgency in the program and help keep the focus on perpetual compliance.”
For Don Rose, Directorate of Emergency Services director, this is considered a “no-fault mission.”
“Any adverse incident at the CDTF could have profound consequences and impacts to the wellbeing of the military and civilian personnel who train and work (here),” he said. “The collaboration and cooperation … is absolutely imperative to ensure an effective police and fire department response to the (CDTF).”
Walker’s office satisfies all chem surety requirements for the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Walker said. Training and Doctrine Command and the Department of the Army Inspector General have bi-annual inspection oversight requirements and one major inspection is conducted each year involving the entire chemical command structure.
“We conduct exercises designed to protect the local population,” Walker said. “Our partners on and off the installation should have the confidence that our first responders and receivers here are well equipped and trained to respond, should the unexpected happen.”
Walker said it’s comforting when he can say everyone is crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.
“We’re an inspection team, but it’s more than that because it has to be,” Walker said. “We have to work as a team. To me that’s the hallmark of a great program, because ultimately we have to comply — the CDTF mission is critical. We have a great working relationship across Fort Leonard Wood. We truly are the team of teams here. That seems so cliché sometimes, but with what I see, what I do, they get it.”