Soldiers become certified with Biological Detection Systems

Story by Pfc. Crystal D. Eldridge
13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office

Soldiers of the 2nd Chemical Battalion, 64th Corps Support Group, 13th Corps Support Command, are undergoing field exercises here to become certified in the use of biological agent detection systems.

Biological Integrated Detection Systems are mobile suites that attach to an ordinary Humvee for detection of foreign agents in the air in order to minimize the number of casualties in the event of a biological attack, said Pfc. Kyle Lewis, BIDS operator with the 31st Chemical Company.

The unit runs off a generator that is mounted into a compartment built into the side of the Humvee and stows away for easy mobilization. This generator allows the suite to run independently of an outside power source.

BIDS is a relatively new system, said Lewis, which is much more feasible than the older methods of detection. In the old system, everything was basically done by hand - from taking samples of the particles in the air to filling out paperwork. With the new system, however, everything is automated, leaving less room for human error.

The unit also provides protection for the Soldiers running it. A specialized filter pressurizes the suite, allowing Soldiers to work unhindered by chemical suits, said Lewis.

The BIDS unit itself, once set up properly, is almost self-sufficient. It measures wind direction and speed, elevation and temperature to ensure the unit is in position to take the best air samples. If the unit is too high, for instance, it may not detect agents that are heavier than oxygen and may be collecting lower to the ground. Therefore, it would need to be moved to lower ground.

Wind direction is also very important. The Humvee is equipped with netting that helps direct the wind towards the detection stacks, but having the unit set up in the proper direction is still immensely important. If the wind is blowing away from the stacks, the unit may not pick up on the particles properly.

Once the unit has been set up properly, it collects a sample of the airborne particles. It then analyzes the sample for foreign agents. If a foreign agent is found, the sample is sent to another unit for identification.

At this point, the BIDS operators are unaware of what agent has been found. This knowledge could be spread to the other troops in the area and cause confusion among the ranks, said Lewis. The main thing Soldiers need to know is there is a biological agent in the area and treatment should be sought.

In order to become certified on the system, the Soldiers of the 2nd must complete this entire process, per sample, in less than an hour. This includes setting up the unit in the field, taking and processing samples, and sending the findings to a command post previously in place, Lewis explained.

There are different types of samples, however, which could require the unit to run multiple scenarios - ultimately demanding up to three days of the Soldiers' time before the final certification has been earned. In the end, though, the Soldiers of the battalion's BIDS companies will be capable of providing biological detection both in garrison and on the front lines of the Global War on Terror.