Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Defense Careers


Chemical, Biological


Creating specialists in the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Defense requires skill and application of knowledge as a teacher, but also commitment, dedication, and nerves of steel to be a student learning about these deadly compounds as a young Marine. These brave men and women fight chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear incidents.

What these Marines are preparing for is a real possibility and a threat to thousands or millions of people. The availability of advanced military and commercial technologies and information combined with commonly available transportation and delivery means, may allow adversaries opportunities to acquire, develop, and employ WMD or create a CBRN environment without regard for national or regional boundaries via shipping containers or on their person entering the country.

See DOD Joint Publication on Operations in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Environments.

Such situations could also expose US military operations to CBRN threats and hazards. While the adversaries in those operational areas may not possess WMD or other CBRN materials, other forms of CBRN hazards may be present that could result in CBRN environments, if released. US forces must be trained and fully capable of operating in those CBRN environments to accomplish all assigned missions. The Marine MOS Field 57 has that duty. But what is CBRN?

Chemical - Chemical hazards are any chemical manufactured, used, transported, or stored that can cause death or other harm through toxic properties of those materials, including chemical agents and chemical weapons prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention as well as toxic industrial chemicals. Application of these to kill people (military or civilians) is known as chemical warfare. Access to deadly chemicals is not that difficult to people of terrorist intent. This is a very real threat. Common types: Nerve agents, blood agent, blister agents, and incapacitating agents.

Biological - Biological agents are microorganisms (or a toxins derived from it) that causes disease and death in personnel, plants, or animals or causes the deterioration of materiel. These can also be stored on an industrial level with relative easy access as any biological material manufactured, used, transported, or stored by industrial, medical, or commercial processes which could pose an infectious or toxic threat is considered a potential weapon. 

Radiological - Radiological dispersal devices (RDD) are improvised assembly or process, other than a nuclear explosive device, designed to disseminate radioactive material to cause destruction, damage, or injury.

A radiological exposure device (RED) is a radioactive source placed to cause injury or death. It causes death and injury by ionizing radiation that can cause damage, injury, or destruction from either external irradiation or due to radiation from radioactive materials within the body.

All radiological devices have the ability to cause residual radiation, which is the dangerous radiation caused by fallout, dispersion of radioactive material, or irradiation following a burst. 

Nuclear - Nuclear weapons, whether by a state actor or a rogue terrorist group, could be a threat given the world-wide situation and potential proliferation of nuclear devices. Being able to use intelligence and sophisticated sensing equipment gives the professional in the CBRN world the ability to assess and react to potential threat areas.

MOS Field 57 - Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Defense

Besides being highly motivated, brave, and skilled thinker in dangerous situations, the personnel involved in CBRN must be able to do the following duties and have the following responsibilities:

  • The Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Defense field includes the detection, identification, warning, reporting, protection, avoidance and decontamination procedures associated with CBRN hazard and contamination on the battlefield.
  • CBRN defense specialists' duties involve operational and technical skills, along with logistical and administrative requirements.
  • CBRN defenses specialists will be required to learn chemical and biological (CB) warfare agents' characteristics, physiological symptoms, and effects, treatment, detection, and identification.
  • They must know the procedures necessary for mitigating the effects of nuclear explosions and detection of radiological hazards.
  • CBRN defense specialists will learn how to conduct CBRN hazard prediction, disseminate this information utilizing the CBRN Warning and Report System, and ensure their command effectively executes contamination avoidance procedures.
  • CBRN defense specialists must possess the necessary knowledge to be able to employ and supervise unit level decontamination, monitor survey, and reconnaissance operations.
  • CBRN defense specialist must be able to effectively instruct CBRN defense individual and unit survival measures to their unit personnel, and provide more in-depth training to their unit's CBRN defense team members.
  • Additionally, CBRN defense specialists must be familiar with the proper employment, operation, serviceability, maintenance, calibration, storage, supply, and accountability procedures for all CBRN defense equipment and materials down to the battalion/squadron level.
  • Formal schooling is provided at the entry level.
  • Billets available in the Occupational Field are at the battalion, select squadron, regiment and Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) level;

- as a member of a CBRN defense platoon in the Division or Marine Logistics Group; as a member of a CBRN defense section in a Marine/aircraft Wing;

- on staffs involving the development of doctrine and acquisition of new equipment; as a member of a equipment assessment unit assigned to a Marine Corps Base; as a member of the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF);

- and as an instructor at a Marine Corps or other service school.

  • Marines entering this Occupational Field will initially receive MOS 5700, Basic CBRN Defense Marine.

Below are the Marine Corps Enlisted Military Occupation Specialties which are organized under this occupational field:

5711 --Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Defense Specialist

5731 --Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Reconnaissance System Operator (JCBRNRS) LAV Operator