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News | Oct. 9, 2006

Retort recognizes CBRN specialists

By Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Members of the 1st Civil Engineer Squadron's readiness specialty now sport a new occupational specialty badge after a ceremony at the Base Theater Friday. 

The 3E9X1 career field, the specialty responsible for preparing for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks and accidents, now wear the retort, a badge recognized by militaries throughout the world as one worn by experts in the CBRN field. 

"The Chief of Staff of the Air Force sees the need to have a core of CBRN specialists to meet demands placed on the Air Force," said Chief Master Sgt. Troy Odden, Air Combat Command command emergency manager. "It's an evolution. There's more demand for CBRN defense." 

The retort insignia consists of two crossed beakers, or retorts, behind a benzene ring, a symbol originally adopted by the Army in 1917. 

"These elements of design allude to our chemical-related functions and our deeply rooted history in the U.S. Army Air Corps to today's modern Air Force," said Master. Sgt. Patrick Cowhey, ACC Installations command functional superintendent. "The benzene ring signifies the molecular composition of the chemical benzene. It has six points for each atom of carbon and hydrogen, representing the basic elements of chemistry. The retort symbolizes the basic container for laboratory experiments. These symbols combined with the Air Force wreath form the badge representing our capabilities." 

In the run-up to Operation Desert Storm, U.S. military leaders realized there was an increased threat of chemical or biological attack. Chief Odden said this put readiness specialists in the forefront of defense. 

"The realization was building that there was a real chemical and biological threat as we knew Saddam Hussein used gas on the Kurds," he said. "Commanders had many questions, and there was a need for additional capabilities."

Chief Odden said the new badge has been in the works for four years and will help other services identify the readiness Airmen for who they are. 

"It helps identify us downrange," he said. "I've deployed with coalition forces, Koreans, Canadians, Italians, and they all wear that same symbol." 

"As the threat of terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction has continued to escalate throughout the world, the need to operate in a joint environment has also increased," said Sergeant Cowhey. "As technical professionals, we work closely with other DoD, civil and international specialists who recognize this symbol as a universal identifier." 

The retort is awarded upon successful completion of the Air Force Readiness Apprentice Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.