Soldier Combat Skills

Chapter 13-2 – Biological Weapons

Biological agents are microorganisms that cause disease in personnel, plants, or animals or cause the deterioration of material. They create a disease hazard where none exists naturally. They may be dispersed as sprays by generators, or delivered by explosives, bomblets, missiles, and aircraft. They may also be spread by the release of germ carrying flies, mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. Biological agents can be classified as toxins or pathogens.


13-29. Biological agents are classified as toxins or pathogens.

Toxins–Toxins are biologically derived poisonous substances produced as by products of microorganisms, fungi, plants, or animals. They can be naturally or synthetically produced. Pathogens–Pathogens are infectious agents that cause disease in man, animals, or plants and include bacteria, viruses, rickettsias, protests, fungi, prions or other biologically derived products.


13-30. Biological agents may be disseminated as aerosols, liquid droplets, or dry powder. Attacks with biological agents can be very subtle or direct, if favorable weather conditions prevail. In nearly all circumstances, you will not know a biological attack has occurred. Symptoms can appear from minutes to days after an attack has occurred. Indicators may include –

  • Mysterious illness (many individuals sick for unknown reasons).
  • Large numbers of vectors, such as insects or unusual insects.
  • Large numbers of dead or strange acting (wild and domestic) animals.
  • Mass casualties with flu like symptoms-fever, sore throat, skin rash, mental abnormalities, pneumonia, diarrhea, dysentery, hemorrhaging, or jaundice.
  • Artillery shells with less powerful explosions than HE rounds.
  • Aerial bombs that pop rather than explode.
  • Mist or fog sprayed by aircraft or aerosol generators.
  • Unexploded bomblets found in the area.


13-31. Soldiers can use household bleach for biological decontamination.

  • Dilute for use on equipment.
  • Apply undiluted in the general area of contamination.


13-32. If threat forces attack with biological agents, you may have little–if any–warning. When a high probability of an attack exists, your unit might assume MOPP4 to protect against contamination. MOPP gear generally protects you against biological agents, but an agent can gain entry through openings such as buttonholes; zippers; stitches; poor seal at ankles, wrists, and neck; or through minute pores in the clothing fabric. Some toxins, however, require the same amount of protection as chemical agents. Consider any unknown agent cloud as a sign of a biological attack and take the same actions prescribed for a chemical attack. Protective measures can be accomplished long before a biological attack happens as follows:


13-33. Immunizations reduce the chances of becoming biological casualties. Proper immunizations protect against many known disease producing biological agents. You should receive basic immunizations. Medical personnel will periodically screen your records and keep them up to date. When your unit deploys to areas where specific diseases are prevalent, readiness preparation may include providing additional immunizations for needed protection.


13-34. The best defense against biological agents is good personal hygiene, which means keeping your body as clean as possible. This not only means washing your face and hands, but all parts of your body- particularly your feet and exposed skin. Shaving may seem unimportant in the field, but it is necessary to achieve a proper seal with your mask. You should clean any small nicks, scratches, and cuts with soap and water followed by first aid treatment.


13-35. Another way to stop the spread of disease is to keep the area clean. Use field sanitation facilities properly. Latrine facilities should include soap and water for hand washing. Avoid leaving such facilities open to help control the insects and rodents. This is also essential in preventing the spread of disease.


13-36. Good physical conditioning requires that you keep your body well-rested, well-fed, and healthy. Get as much exercise and rest as the situation permits, and remember to eat properly. You may have to eat smaller portions, but at more frequent intervals. For you to be able to fight off germs, you must remain healthy.


13-37. Proper implementation of the DOD insect repellent system will provide you protection from insects and ticks, which can serve as vectors, spreading biological agents.


13-38. Training in an CBRN environment should be integrated into all areas of your unit training. Reinforcement training both individual and collective tasks should be performed to standard through continuous training, thereby instilling your individual confidence. Your life and the lives of your fellow Soldiers could depend on it.

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