What is your background and what brought you to the field of CBRNe/EOD?
I joined the British Army back in 1984 where served for 24 years. Whilst in the Army I was part of the Combat Engineers and I also took more specialized training to become a paratrooper and a bomb disposal officer.
Very early on when I joined the threat of a chemical or a nuclear attack was very high. The Cold War was still going on and I was stationed in Northern Germany in a little town called Hameln just south of Hannover for 6 years.
During that time, the threat level of what we then called NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical, now CBRN) was very high. We used to spend the majority of our time in NBC suits, because the threat felt so real at the time that you would spend around 6 or 7 hours a day in a suit and probably 3 hours of that day in gas masks because you had to train as if you would actually fight. The alert level was so high that you always had to be carrying your NBC equipment with you. When we would conduct military exercises known as “active edge” we would spend pretty much the majority of the time in what we call “dress state 4” and a lot of time in “4R” which was essentially full PPE with gas masks on. Our motto was “be on time and mask in nine,” as we used to practice putting on our masks within 9 seconds on the alarm sounding.
During the First Gulf War the threat was again very high, but never really materialized. As time went on it was deemed that the threat of an attack from this type of threat wasn’t so high, and we didn’t have to carry our CBRN equipment with us all the time.
The first time I dealt with a suspect chemical substance was in Iraq back in 2004-2005. This was around the time of the WMD (Weapon of Mass Destruction) threat that the Iraq military forces supposedly had within its arsenal of weaponry. I can say that we came across munitions which did not appear with regular ordnance markings. There were instances where mortar rounds had been painted over to disguise their original markings.
At one stage I remember having dealt with a munition involving a leaking chemical that we had been tasked to deal with… Read the full interview for free in the NCT Magazine!