Marines eager to move into new chemical warfare training facility

A stack of shipping containers serves as a makeshift wall separating the classroom and storage space inside the cavernous warehouse that the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Marines call home.

For over four years, the CBRN Marines have trained more than 2,500 Marines and sailors each year inside the dimly lit, sometimes sweltering warehouse near the flight line at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. That will change this year after a new, air-conditioned training center becomes their home.

The CBRN Marines train base personnel how to prevent, protect against and respond to possible chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear attacks while deployed overseas. But their current conditions haven't provided the most ideal training environment.

"It's not the best way to train, but it gets the job done in a pinch," said Chief Warrant Officer Lee Fair, CBRN's commanding officer.

"The noise and the heat in this building are a problem. There's no air conditioning, so it can be pretty unbearable in here in the summer. It's just not an environment that's conducive to training."

Fair and his 10 Marines will move by the end of the year into a $3 million facility under construction half a mile away.

CBRN's new building will feature a temperature-controlled classroom with improved lighting and state-of-the-art technology, as well as a new chamber for training with toxic gas.

The unit now trains 15 Marines at a time in a modified shipping container less than 50 yards from the warehouse, where Marines donning protective equipment are exposed to tear gas.

The new chamber will be able to hold more than 30 Marines and be equipped with an air-filtration system to eliminate environmental exposure to the gas particles after each training session.

The new building is also expected to be the first on base to be certified under the national LEED program, as contractors plan to build the facility to meet stringent standards to minimize environmental impacts.

With furniture and other supplies for the new building arriving daily, Fair said he and his Marines are looking forward to a change of scenery.

"I don't get real sentimental about places, and I don't think any of us will miss being here," he said.