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Field Identification of Biological Warfare Agents (FIBWA)

FIBWA Pamphlet

FIBWA Managers Course
01-24   Nov 14 – Nov 16
02-24   Jan 09 – Jan 11
03-24   Apr 09 – Apr 11
04-24   Jun 25 – Jun 27
01-24   Mar 04 – Mar 15
02-24   Jul 08 – Jul 19
01-24   Oct 23 – Nov 03
02-24   Jan 29 – Feb 09
03-24   Jun 03 – Jun 14
04-24   Sep 09 – Sep 20
01-24   Mar 18 – Mar 29
02-24   Jul 22 – Aug 02

FIBWA logo
Field Identification of Biological Warfare Agents

Just preceding the onset of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, military planners realized there was a significant need for battlefield detection of biological warfare agents. As detectors were developed and deployed, the ability to confirm what the detectors were "seeing" was crucial to add confidence for battlefield, medical, and National Command Authority decisions. The requirement for a deployable biological warfare agent confirmation laboratory was born.

With development and deployment of BW agent detection assays, the need for transition to field deployment and subsequent training of personnel was necessary. A training course was developed to train individuals in polymerase chain reaction and enzyme linked immunosorbent assays. Currently, the course offers the most advanced fieldable technologies for confirming biological warfare agents.

The Army's initial deployable laboratory was the 520th Theater Army Medical Laboratory (TAML) which has been deployed in support of several missions. Following Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, the 520th TAML was reorganized into the 1st and 9th Area Medical Laboratories (AML). These units form the foundation for deployable biological warfare agent detection systems in the Army medical system.

Following the completion of this course, students are trained to set-up, maintain, and operate a deployable confirmatory laboratory under field conditions. The deployed laboratory capability serves as Theater and Combatant Commanders', as well as the Theater Surgeon's resource for biological warfare testing.

Since the FIBWA course was first offered in 1999 more than 1000 students including members of three services, DoD civilians, and foreign scientists have attended. Due to increased demand for these highly specialized courses, training opportunities were increased in 2003 with the addition of new training facilities. The new facilities provide laboratory space for eight students per class retaining the individualized instruction process.

In 2005, the National Guard Bureau began using the FIBWA training program as the foundation for the advanced biological component of their Civil Support Teams (CST). These teams, assigned to each state and territory, form the foundation of a highly specialized weapons of mass destruction (WMD) response element.

In 2008 the four-week FIBWA and three-day FIBWA Manager's courses were added to the Army Training Resources and Requirements System (ATRRS) as course numbers 6H-F40/311-F4 and 6H-F41/311-F5 respectively. This milestone allows FIBWA graduates to earn valuable military education points which can lead to advancement.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa 2014 killed tens of thousands of people and elicited a world-wide response. FIBWA implemented the FIBWA-EZ Ebola Diagnostic PCR training course to rapidly spin-up more than 100 scientists and technicians deploying to Liberia for laboratory support of the public health efforts.

FIBWA training consists of three main courses and custom training opportunities:

FIBWA Technician Course – 4 weeks

FIBWA Managers Course – 3 days

FIBWA NGB CST Course – 3 weeks

  • ALS Challenge Exercise – 2-3 days

FIBWA Special Interest Training

  • Team/Unit-specific
    • Mobile Biosurveillance Teams
    • Deployed Laboratory Forward/Public Health
  • Mission-specific
    • BW Biosurveillance and ID
    • Field Confirmatory/Theater Validation
    • WGS/Pathogen Discovery
  • Event/Project-specific
    • JUPITR - Korea
    • BW Capacity Building Turkey
    • West Africa 2014
  • Technical - Rapid BW detection/identification techniques
    • WGS: MiSeq, MinIon
    • PCR: JBAIDS, RAZOR, Biofire FilmArray, ABI 7500
    • ECL: PR2, MagPix, LFI
    • Accessory methods culture/microscopy/biochemical

While these courses are designed for organizations within the DoD, special considerations can be made for other governmental agencies.

The basis for the equipment and technology is integrated with the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD). Concepts of Operations and reagents are continually evaluated and transitioned to the field and into the training program to insure that FIBWA training is relevant and on the "Cutting Edge."

The FIBWA Technician Course is 20 working days in duration (4 weeks). The course outline is listed below. A field situational training exercise provides an opportunity to integrate training with real-world scenarios that challenge the student's understanding and skills.

The FIBWA Managers Course is a three-day course designed to introduce leaders to the management of biological warfare agent identification. Emphasis is on laboratory operations, assay use, and limitations. Hands-on opportunities are provided for core technologies.

The FIBWA NGB CST is provided exclusively for the National Guard Bureau Civil Support Teams (CST). It consists of two weeks of CST specific instruction culminating in a situational training exercise.

FIBWA Special Interest Training Courses are adapted to customer requirements. Courses can range from days to weeks depending on the breadth of information needed and any requirements for certifications. Examples of this training include training newly fielded systems and technologies.

Typical Course Syllabus:

Overview, Bio-safety, and Intro to Lab Operations (1.5 days):
The Primary objectives and didactic plan will be outlined. BW history, Lab Concepts, Current Techniques, and Lab operations in a Field environment will be discussed. Students will be introduced to the fundamentals of bio-safety and basic lab skills. Bio-safety will be continually evaluated throughout laboratory exercises.

Nucleic Acid Extraction and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (9 days):
Students will be familiarized with the theory and practice of detecting agents in unknown samples using nucleic acid based assays. The students will be trained on DNA extraction protocols including extraction of DNA from medical samples, soil, boil preps from cultures, and extraction of RNA for RT- PCR. Configuration of thermal-cycler reaction profiles, operation and maintenance, and data interpretation are also covered. Several options for training exist such as JBAIDS, BioFire FilmArray, RAZOR, ABI 7500 and other DNA/RNA analysis techniques such as Whole Genome Sequencing.

Electrochemiluminescence (ECL) (4 days):
Students will be familiarized with the theory and practice of detecting agents (bacteria and toxins) in unknown samples using electrochemiluminescent technology. Students will be trained on preparation of a variety of sample matrices, ECL procedures using the PR2/MagPix analyzer, and interpretation of results. Protocols for major threat agents will be reviewed.

Field Operations (1 day):
Discussion will focus on operational issues that the students may be faced with, the decision-making process, and long-range support. Sample flow and laboratory design will be discussed and students will participate in tabletop exercises.

Field Training Exercise (4 days):
Students will be given several scenarios to respond to during this block of instruction. The students will be required to set up and operate a lab under field conditions. The students will be evaluated on how well they respond and problem solve throughout the exercise. Students will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of the Concept of Operations that they have been trained to follow.

Course Critique/After Action Review (.5 day):
Students will be given an opportunity to give comments on training and ask questions of key personnel within the department. Certificates of training will be issued.

Contact Information:

Field Operations and Training
1425 Porter Street
Fort Detrick, MD 21702
DSN: 343-7166/8656


Last Modified Date: 3-Aug-2023