ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Within the Joint Service Physical Protection Engineering (JSPPE) Branch, a unique blend of seasoned engineers work together, apply their collective and individual protection expertise, and counter Chemical Biological (CB) threats.
Within the last year, realignments brought the Collective Protection (ColPro) and the Individual Protection (IP) teams closer under the JSPPE Branch.
“We’re able to draw off the technical resources – there’s a lot of back and forth between ColPro and IP staff because we have common issues,” said Trish Weiss, IP Team Leader. “The combined Branch has been a really good thing for us.”
John Clayton, ColPro Sustainment and Fixed Site Team Leader, agrees with this sentiment: “Our team doesn’t operate in a bubble; we collaborate across other groups within ECBC and our customers harness this efficiency.”
The recent retirement of Jim Church, former JSPPE Branch Chief, extracted more than 40 years of knowledge. Yet his predecessor, Don Kilduff, is confident in the remaining and ever-growing knowledge in the Branch.
“Jim’s retirement may seem like an overwhelming gap for the Branch, but I would consider it a success story,” says Kilduff. “Jim felt passionate enough about what we do here within the branch to be able to amass those years of knowledge and build upon them by staying with us for so long.”
Despite Church’s departure, the Branch remains packed with experts, passionate about protecting the Warfighter. Prior to the Branch Chief position, he served as the team leader for the Apache Joint Service Aircrew Mask (JSAM) project since 1999. Clayton, who started supporting ECBC as a student contractor during college, is approaching a two-decade term of service. Weiss has built a career on loyalty to the Army, with more than 28 years of experience.
“There are several other people in this Branch who have many years of experience in the physical protection commodity area,” Weiss said. “For example, Sam Carter, our Systems Manager for the M45 series mask, has over 25 years experience with the M40 and M45 series masks. He is our ‘go to’ technical resource and ‘corporate memory’ on these systems. Such experience and technical expertise is highly valued here.” Weiss and Clayton also note other long time experts in their Branch, Wayne Gulian, a ColPro engineer, has nearly 30 years direct experience, and Allen Swim, an ECBC representative SME for PM Ground Combat Vehicle, has a diverse skillset extending to most things related to CB.
Weiss, who marked her start with ECBC before a six year assignment with the then-U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency’s Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Project, supporting the Explosive Destruction System, eventually found her way back to individual protection.
When Weiss first began working with ECBC in the early 1980s, the M40 mask was what she calls “the new toy,” now as her IP Team manages the sustainment of the M40 as a legacy mask; Weiss values the experience she has of working with a mask from its conception to its sustainment.
“Sustainment in those systems is very important because the M40 and M45 are still in production at Pine Bluff Arsenal,” says Weiss. “Even legacy systems have issues arising in production, such as tooling or availability of materials or components, and these things require technical support.”
In addition to sustaining the legacy M40 mask, the IP team also aids with the current fielding of the Joint Service General Purpose Mask (JSGPM), the M50 and the JSAM. Recently, they began providing support to the Combat Support Team, conducting Personal Protective Equipment training.
Weiss and her team are passionate about protecting the warfighter, and work to inform and educate the military community on issues involving safety of use of individual protection systems through forums like Army Chemical Review and PS Preventative Maintenance Monthly Magazine.
“For example, we recently published an article in the Army Chemical Review about the importance of using the authorized military C2A1 Canister with the M40 series mask versus look-alike commercial canisters. We are advocates for the safety of our soldiers,” Weiss said. Weiss and her team earned a Silver Quill award for an article appearing in Army Chemical Review about this topic. Many within the IP Team also share knowledge with their co-workers in the ColPro Team.
“I have several team members who are part time with the ColPro Team and move between the two,” Weiss said. While IP focuses on individual systems such as protective masks, ColPro focuses on the protection of multiple people. The ColPro Sustainment and Fixed Site Team mission has three major focus areas: sustainment of legacy ColPro equipment, support to active acquisition programs, and support to protected fixed site facilities. Each heavily focuses on fielding and maintenance of various ColPro systems, such as protective filtration systems incorporated into the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system of a protected building.
“If there was an attack, these filters are there to protect the people,” explains Clayton. “The systems filter incoming air and provide overpressure in the protected space; as pressure is increased, air travels from the protected area to the contaminated area through any leaks (instead of vice versa), so we don’t have to worry about absolutely sealing every leak point. This results in a protected space for work and relief from wearing IP equipment.”
To ensure the efficacy of these systems, the team also conducts semi-annual leak tests and periodic surveillance involving removal and tests of filters to analyze degradation and predict when they should be replaced. These tests indicate how well the system is performing; some systems use hundreds of individual filters. If the filters need to be replaced, the team coordinates with TACOM to order replacements and conduct change outs – an area of growth for the team, says Clayton. An Interagency Agreement is in review to provide support to the State Department Bureau of Overseas Buildings.
ColPro also draws from the knowledge base within the Research and Technology Directorate’s Chemical Biological Radiological (CBR) Filtration Branch. Clayton explains the synergy between his group and CBR Filtration: “We’re linked; they’re developing new filtration technologies, such as work on new adsorbents to address the change in threat. Jerry Young, a team member, is also working with them on the Rapid Filter Protection Assessment Tool, a smartphone app that will assist Users by estimating filter life given potential field scenarios. We execute against User requirements, leverage what they develop, and work to field the technology.”
Clayton observes the shifting threat from Chemical Warfare to Toxic Industrial Chemicals, noting that customers within JPM Protection have expressed an interest in the new absorbent technologies, with the hope that they can be transitioned into the newer mask series.
JPM Protection is currently working the Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection (JECP) program, which Clayton considers a new development program for ColPro; Allen Lai, from the JSPPE Branch, represents ECBC on the program. “They are using engineering to make products lighter without sacrificing durability,” explains Clayton. “The program is driven by weight – legacy systems are heavy.” Field expedience and strike-erect times are also important.
Clayton said he thinks JECP is where the future of ColPro is headed, and is glad that ECBC can be a contributor to the future of ColPro.
“There is a lot of good working going on at ECBC and there is a lot of talent here,” says Weiss. “And there are a lot of folks with years of experience in their respective areas; we just like for that to be recognized.”