Army Chemical Officer Assignments

The Light Infantry Chemical Officer
and the National Training Center (NTC) Experience

by 1LT Sean D. Lovett, Light Inf CHEMO, 172d Inf Bde, Alaska



Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) warfare is perhaps the most terrifying aspect of warfare. On emotional and intellectual levels, most people can accept casualties resulting from bullets, artillery, bombs and other forms of conventional weapons. When it comes to NBC, the same people are almost devastatingly terrified. When one is faced with something that threatens him, there are two reactions, face the danger or deny its existence, the old "fight or flight" principal. Unfortunately, in the case of the light infantry, it is more often the latter response instead of the former.

Every light infantry battalion is assigned one 74A Chemical Officer to its staff. By doctrine, the chemical officer is a special staff officer who works directly for the battalion commander. However, by practice, the Chemical Officer (CHEMO) is assigned to the office of the S3 Operations Officer. More often than not, the CHEMO becomes swamped with administrative duties and a large variety of additional duties instead of those for which he was trained. For most light infantry CHEMOs, chemical training becomes little more than a vague memory of the Chemical Officer Basic Course (COBC). NBC proves to stand for "Nobody Cares," that is, until a rotation at the NTC begins to loom on the horizon.

As a light infantry chemical officer in Alaska, I found myself in much the same situation as I have just described. Much of my home-station time is spent with a variety of administrative and operational projects that have absolutely nothing to do with NBC. Indeed, the only regular NBC-related duties that I have are concerned with turning in the monthly Chemical Defense Equipment Report. This factor, combined with the extreme environmental conditions of Alaska, and the standard light infantry anti-NBC attitude served to provide little to no opportunity to hone any NBC-related skills prior to deployment to the NTC. I discovered that I would have to completely re-educate myself in the field of NBC Warfare.

When I first began my search for information concerning NBC operations in light infantry battalions at the NTC, I found few resources. Outside of occasional Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP), the few resources that I found concerned general NBC operations. None of these could be tailored to specifically aid the light infantry battalion CHEMO.

The best resource that I found in preparing for a rotation at NTC was speaking with CHEMOs that have gone through previous rotations. In most of their situations, they were each forced to create, from nothing, their own systems and solutions to the challenges posed at NTC. In each case, the systems were created just prior or during their rotation and occasionally passed to others by word of mouth.

This article provides, in written form, a starting point for the typical light infantry CHEMO to begin preparations for a rotation to NTC. The information and methods provided in this article are derived from a variety of sources including field manuals, articles, and the personal experiences of other light infantry battalion CHEMOs as well as my own. It is my hope that this article can be used as a base from which future CHEMOs learn prior mistakes and derive their own operational systems to prepare for NTC.

Common Mistakes of the Light Infantry CHEMO

There are a variety of mistakes that light infantry CHEMOS have made in the past. Most of these mistakes are a result of a lack of experience in NBC affairs, not general incompetence. The greatest single problem facing the CHEMO is his lack of NBC training and experience. Although he has graduated COBC, the light infantry CHEMO rarely practices his profession between the basic and advanced courses. More often than not, he is confronted with a chain of command that is resistant to NBC issues and prefers to keep the CHEMO busy with non-NBC-related issues. This lack of experience serves to be the greatest contributor to common NBC mistakes.

1.The MOPP Level. The mission-oriented protective posture (MOPP) level is the single NBC Issue closest to the heart of the light infantryman. The average infantryman carries an average of 60 to 75 pounds of gear. A complete Individual Chemical Equipment Package (ICE Pack) weighs approximately eight and one-half pounds. When an infantryman carries 75 pounds of gear through a hot, humid environment and then is told that he must now carry, and possibly wear, his MOPP suit, he suffers what infantry officers describe as "an emotionally significant event." Many CHEMOs become enthusiastic and excited when they are finally allowed to practice their profession. As a result, many hastily prescribe an unnecessary MOPP level that places a significant burden upon the soldiers of the battalion.

When making a MOPP analysis, several factors need to be considered, such as weather, mission, transportation and most likely time of attack. Consider the expected time of a chemical attack and prescribe the MOPP level accordingly. If the mission is an attack, consider keeping the soldier no higher than MOPP 1, if necessary. Consider whether the soldiers will be carrying their rucksacks or if arrangements have been made to transport the rucksacks (rucks) by truck to relieve them of the load. Carefully take into consideration all factors before prescribing a MOPP level. Remember: keep the infantry out of MOPP as long as possible.

2. NBC Downwind Hazard Prediction. Another area in which common mistakes are made is downwind hazard prediction. Many CHEMOs fail to realize that standard downwind hazard prediction is heavily safety oriented. Although the downwind hazard distance for most attack cases is 10 kilometers, do not hastily assume that a chemical agent will spread this entire distance. Factors, such as terrain, wind speed, and, most importantly, size of the attack, greatly affect the downwind hazard prediction.

Simple Suggestions

1. Pre-(Reception, Staging, Onward movement and Integration (RSOI) Preparations.The following is a list of preparations that must be done prior to deploying to the National Training Center:

a. Wipe Tests. Ensure that all M8 Chemical Alarms and Chemical Agent Monitors are wipe-tested and that the proper documents have been filed as proof.
b. CDE Report. Ensure that the company NBC NCOs submit a complete Chemical Defense Equipment Report (CDE) for all NBC equipment with which their company will deploy to the NTC. Keep a copy of the company CDE for your files and make a consolidated battalion-level CDE report for use during the rotation.
c. Minimum CDE Deployment List. Publish a list of the minimum amounts of NBC equipment with which each company should deploy. State how many items should be taken for a specific number of soldiers and equipment, such as one roll of M9 paper per every nine soldiers or major end item. Detail the minimum number of each item with which the company will deploy and distribute a copy to the battalion commander, company commander, company XO, and company NBC NCO.
d. NBC Tasks List. Submit a list of NBC tasks for the companies to focus upon to the battalion commander. This task list should consist of basic NBC tasks such as MOPP gear exchange, use of M256 Kit, and use of Nerve Anti-Agent Kit. The NBC tasks should be simple and focus upon reinforcing skills learned during basic common task training.

2. The Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP).To create a viable product, the CHEMO must conduct a detailed cross-talk with the Battalion S2 to discuss issues such as enemy NBC weapons, delivery capabilities, tactics of employment, and likelihood of employment. Once this has been completed, he must suggest to the Battalion Commander an appropriate MOPP level to match the threat.

There are a variety of aids used in assessing the potential NBC threat and NBC vulnerability. The best current single method to conduct both of these assessments is the utilization of the NBC Threat Analysis Worksheet and the Chemical Vulnerability Worksheet. Both of these forms are products originally produced by the U.S. Army Chemical School. Both worksheets ask a series of questions whose answers have an assigned numerical value. Once all of the numbers have been added together, the total determines the likelihood of an enemy NBC attack and the degree of vulnerability to an NBC attack faced by friendly forces. I have personally found these products to be quite useful and I highly recommend them to any CHEMO for use.

To supplement, or update an NBC threat analysis, it is useful to keep an ongoing log of NBC-related events. This log would be kept to maintain a log of NBC events such as the sighting or movement of chemical munitions, a change of enemy MOPP status, or any other event that can have an effect on NBC warfare. The log can be used to justify an update of the unit MOPP status, enemy NBC threat, and show a developing pattern in the enemy NBC stature. This log can be kept on a standard DA Form 1594 or a modified version of the form such as the example shown in Figure 1.

DTG Rec.Rpt FromActivity

The Best Career Paths for an Army Officer

A branch is a grouping of officers making up an arm or service of the Army. Officers are accessed upon commissioning into a single branch. Throughout their company grade years, it where they are assigned, developed and promoted. In their fifth and sixth year, they may receive a functional area designation within the branch.

Special Forces is the only nonaccession branch, recruiting officers with a minimum of three years of experience from the accession branches.

Officers serve their first eight to 12 years developing the leadership and tactical skills associated with their branch. They wear their branch insignia throughout their military service. All career branches are in the Operations Career Field.

Assignments for Army Officers

Most officers will serve in positions from within their basic branch through their company grade years. Some officers will serve in a functional area or generalist positions that are not related to a specific branch or functional area after they are branch qualified as captains. Following Career Field designation, officers are assigned to positions within their Career Field (basic branch or FA) or to generalist positions. This type of assignment pattern promotes assignment stability and development within a branch or functional area.

Functional Areas for Army Officers

A functional area is a grouping of officers by technical specialty or skill, which usually requires significant education, training, and experience.

An officer receives his or her functional area between the fifth and sixth years of service. It is designated considering individual preference, academic background, the manner of performance, training, and experience, and needs of the Army. Here is a listing of the Branches and Functional Areas for Army officers:

Branch 11 Infantry: The infantry officer is responsible for leading the infantry and combined armed forces during land combat. 

Branch 12 Corps of Engineers: An engineer officer is responsible for providing full support to the wide range of engineering duties in the Army. They can help build structures, develop civil works programs and even provide combat support.

  • 12A Engineer
  • 12B Combat Engineer (del 1310 / 1110 - 14)
  • 12D Facilities/Contact Construction Management Engineer (FCCME) (del 1310 / 1110 - 14)

Branch 13 Field Artillery: The field artillery officer leads the field artillery branch, who neutralizes the enemy by cannon, rocket, and missile fire. The officer must be an expert in tactics, techniques, and procedures for the employment of fire support systems. 

  • 13A Field Artillery Officer

Branch 14 Air Defense Artillery: The air defense artillery officer leads the air defense artillery branch, who protects U.S. forces from aerial attack, missile attack, and enemy surveillance. They must be an expert in tactics, techniques, and procedures for the employment of air defense systems. They also become an expert in one or more systems including the PATRIOT missile system and the AVENGER system.

  • 14A Air Defense Artillery Officer

Branch 15 Aviation: Aviation officers coordinate/lead operations using Army helicopters: OH-58 Kiowa, UH-60 Black Hawk, CH-47 Chinook and the AH-64 Apache. These operations can haul troops and carry supplies, as well as provide quick-strike and long-range target engagement.

  • 15A Aviation, General
  • 15B Aviation Combined Arms Operations
  • 15C Aviation All-source Intelligence

Branch 18 Special Forces: The Special Forces officer is the team leader of an operational detachment alpha, a highly trained 12-man team that is deployed in rapid-response situations. The officer organizes the mission, outfits the team and debriefs them on the mission objective.

  • 18A Special Forces Officer

Branch 19 Armor: Armor officers are responsible for tank and cavalry/forward reconnaissance operations on the battlefield.

The role of an armor officer is to be a leader in operations specific to the armor branch and to lead others in many areas of combat operations.

  • 19A Armor, General
  • 19B Armor
  • 19C Cavalry

Branch 25 Signal Corps: The signal officer leads the Signal Corps, which is responsible for the Army’s entire systems of communication. Officers plan and execute all aspects of communication on a mission and are critical to the Army’s continued success.

Branch 27 Judge Advocate General's Corps: The Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps attorney is responsible for offering legal support that involves military operations. They primarily focus on the areas of criminal law, legal assistance, civil/administrative law, labor/employment law, international/operational law and contract/fiscal law.

  • 27A Judge Advocate General
  • 27B Military Judge

Branch 31 Military Police: A military police officer is responsible for leading the Soldiers that protect lives and property on Army Installations.

  • 31A Military Police Officer

Branch 35 Military Intelligence: The Army’s military intelligence is responsible for all collected intelligence during Army missions. They provide essential information that often saves the Soldiers fighting on front lines.

  • 35D All-Source Intelligence
  • 35E Counter Intelligence (CI)
  • 35G Signals Intelligence/Electronic Warfare (SIGINT/EW)

Branch 36 Financial Management: The financial manager is in charge of the Army’s Finance Corps, who are responsible for sustaining missions through purchases of services and supplies.

Branch 37 Psychological Operations: Psychological operations officer conducts operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences. Psychological Operations leaders lead from the front and adjust to dynamic environments that are constantly changing and challenging.

  • 37A Psychological Operations
  • 37X Psychological Operations, Designated

Branch 38 Civil Affairs (AA AND USAR): Civil affairs officers act as a liaison between the Army and civilian authorities and populations.

  • 38A Civil Affairs (AA and USAR)
  • 38X Civil Affairs, Designated

Branch 42 Adjutant General Corps: The Adjutant General Corps officer plans, develops and operates the Army’s personnel, administrative, and community activities support systems to build and sustain combat readiness.

  • 42B Human Resources Officer
  • 42C Army Bands
  • 42H Senior Human Resources Officer

Branch 56 Chaplain: The Army chaplain has the responsibility of caring for the spiritual well-being of Soldiers and their Families.

Branch 60-62 Medical Corps: The Medical Corps is composed exclusively of commissioned officers who have a degree of Doctor of Medicine from medical school or Doctor of Osteopathy from osteopathic school acceptable to HQDA.

  • 60A Operational Medicine
  • 60B Nuclear Medicine Officer
  • 60C Preventive Medicine Officer
  • 60D Occupational Medicine Officer
  • 60F Pulmonary Disease/Critical Care Officer
  • 60G Gastroenterologist
  • 60H Cardiologist
  • 60J Obstetrician and Gynecologist
  • 60K Urologist
  • 60L Dermatologist
  • 60M Allergist, Clinical Immunologist
  • 60N Anesthesiologist
  • 60P Pediatrician
  • 60Q Pediatric Sub-Specialist
  • 60R Child Neurologist
  • 60S Ophthalmologist
  • 60T Otolaryngologist
  • 60U Child Psychiatrist
  • 60V Neurologist
  • 60W Psychiatrist
  • 61A Nephrologist
  • 61B Medical Oncologist/Hematologist
  • 61C Endocrinologist
  • 61D Rheumatologist
  • 61E Clinical Pharmacologist
  • 61F Internist
  • 61G Infectious Disease Officer
  • 61H Family Medicine
  • 61J General Surgeon
  • 61K Thoracic Surgeon
  • 61L Plastic Surgeon
  • 61M Orthopedic Surgeon
  • 61N Flight Surgeon
  • 61P Physiatrist
  • 61Q Radiation Oncologist
  • 61R Diagnostic Radiologist
  • 61U Pathologist
  • 61W Peripheral Vascular Surgeon
  • 61Z Neurosurgeon
  • 62A Emergency Physician
  • 62B Field Surgeon

Branch 63 Dental Corps: The Dental Corps is a special branch of the Army composed of commissioned officers who are graduates of a dental school accredited by the American Dental Association and acceptable to The Surgeon General.

  • 63A General Dentist
  • 63B Comprehensive Dentist
  • 63D Periodontist
  • 63E Endodontist
  • 63F Prosthodontist
  • 63H Public Health Dentist
  • 63K Pediatric Dentist
  • 63M Orthodontist
  • 63N Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
  • 63P Oral Pathologist
  • 63R Executive Dentist

Branch 64 Veterinary Corps: The Veterinary Corps (VC) consists exclusively of commissioned officers who are qualified doctors of veterinary medicine.

  • 64A Field Veterinary Service
  • 64B Veterinary Preventive Medicine
  • 64C Veterinary Laboratory Animal Medicine
  • 64D Veterinary Pathology
  • 64E Veterinary Comparative Medicine
  • 64F Veterinary Clinical Medicine
  • 64Z Senior Veterinarian (IMMATERIAL)

Branch 65 Army Medical Specialist Corps: The Medical Specialist Corps is made up of clinical dieticians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physician's assistants.

Branch 66 Army Nurse Corps: The Army Nurse Corps provides the nursing care and services essential to the mission of the Army Medical Department. Responsible for all facets of nursing relating to the planning, management, operation, control, coordination and evaluation of all nursing practices.

  • 66B Army Public Health Nurse
  • 66C Psychiatric/Behavioral Health Nurse
  • 66E Perioperative Nurse
  • 66F Nurse Anesthetist
  • 66G Obstetrics and Gynecol
  • 66H Medical-Surgical Nurse
  • 66N Generalist Nurse
  • 66P Family Nurse Practitioner
  • 66R Psychiatric/Behavioral Health Nurse Practitioner (add 1304 / 1110 - 13)
  • 66W Certified Nurse Midwife (add 1304 / 1110 - 12)

Branch 67 Medical Service Corps: From medical fields such as optometry and podiatry to laboratory sciences to behavioral sciences, the Army Medical Service Corps includes many areas of specialty.

Branch 74 Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN): A Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear officer commands the Army branch that specifically defends against the threat of CBRN weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction. These officers lead an extraordinary chemical unit that is completely dedicated to protecting our nation.

Branch 88 Transportation Corps: The Transportation officer manages all facets of transportation related to the planning, operation, coordination and evaluation of all methods of transportation including multi-modal systems.

  • 88A Transportation, General

Branch 90 Logistics: Logistics Corps Officers are competent in planning and directing multi-functional logistical operations across the tactical, operational and strategic spectrum of logistical functions of maneuver sustainment.

Branch 91 Ordnance: Ordnance officers are responsible for ensuring that weapons systems, vehicles,  and equipment are ready and available—and in perfect working order—at all times. They also manage the developing, testing, fielding, handling, storage and disposal of munitions.

  • 91A Maintenance & Munitions Materiel Officer

Branch 92 Quartermaster Corps: The quartermaster officer provides supply support for Soldiers and units in field services, aerial delivery, and material and distribution management.

  • 92A Quartermaster, General

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