The Chemical, Ordnance, Biological and Radiological Training Facility is always looking for ways to improve training while keeping students safe.

The COBRATF is currently testing new protective suits to replace the military Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLST) currently worn by students in training.  

“While it (the JSLST) performs above standards, it is not NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)-certified,” explained John Blandamer, COBRATF Program Manager. “Additionally, the JSLST is not readily available to many first responders or emergency response units.”

Both brands of suits being tested by the COBRATF are NFPA-certified and readily available to first responders, said Blandamer, who added the facility is conducting the tests to ensure the suits provide students with the necessary protection against the chemical agents (VX and Sarin) and biological materials (Anthrax Delta Sterne and Ricin A Chain) regularly used in training.

“The purpose of these tests is to evaluate the suits for durability and retention of their resistance to nerve agent permeation or penetration following decontamination and cleaning,” he explained. “We are testing five suits of each brand, or a total of 10 suits.”

Blandamer said each suit is being put through a series of movements that would be expected during training, to include sitting, walking and squatting, and is being worn and laundered between three to 15 times.  

Blandamer added that the staff conducting the tests are ensuring that even the smallest details are observed and recorded, noting things like the g-force of the spin cycle of the washers and the soap used to clean the suits are all considered and regulated, and a record of serviceability for each garment is maintained.

Once the prescribed number of wears and washes are complete, all the suits will be sent to the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland for further testing, he said. 

Switching to one of the new suits will have several additional benefits. 

The new suits are lighter and cooler than the current suits, said Blandamer. The new suits will also not need to be autoclaved, which requires considerable man-hours to get them ready for use.