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Flying tigers 'MOPP' flightline

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 4/26/2004

Story by Lance Cpl. Thomas A. Sloan

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, Okinawa, Japan (April 16, 2004) -- Working under simulated nuclear, biological and chemical threat conditions, more than 140 Flying Tigers from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-262, Marine Aircraft Group-36, conducted NBC mission oriented training here April 16.

According to 1st Lt. Kenneth O'Connor, squadron NBC officer, HMM-262, MAG-36, the purpose of the event was to develop, evaluate and refine actions taken by each Marine before and after an attack.

"If the squadron was to be involved in such an event, work shouldn't have to come to a halt," said the West Town, N.Y., native. "It needs to keep right on track so that the mission is accomplished. That's why the Marines have to remain capable of performing their normal duties while wearing MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) gear. This training will help to familiarize them with the gear's restraints."

O'Connor also said any suggestions the Marines had that made working in MOPP gear easier would be recorded and later included in HMM-262's execution checklist.

From 7 a.m. to noon, the Marines went about their normal jobs at different MOPP levels in an effort to become acclimatized to the gear's limitations. Midway through the event the alarm was sounded and the entire squadron went into MOPP level four.

The burdens brought on by wearing gas masks and gloves made performing everyday tasks, like maintenance, troubleshooting and pre-flight preparations, harder to do. Even answering the phone was somewhat difficult, according to Lance Cpl. Brendan Wheeler, administration clerk.

"I had problems with callers understanding what I was saying," the 19-year-old Zachary, La., native said. "To them I probably sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher. Typing was challenging too because the thickness of the gloves caused me to hit too many keys at once. I got around that by using a pencil; it was a lot more accurate."

In the morning, a CH-46 helicopter was completely sealed up in order to make it contamination-free so the pilots could fly it. A team of three CH-46 crew chiefs covered every opening with protective tarp and duct tape in seven minutes.

"In the event of a real attack, the bird must be covered quickly so the chemicals don't have a chance to get in," said 23-year-old Cpl. Robert Pacitti, CH-46 helicopter crew chief. "When the pilots get ready to fly, we rip off the tarp and they take to the sky."

The event concluded with NBC specialists from Personal Support Detachment, MAG-36, giving an hour-long discussion about the importance of chemical warfare preparedness.

"Know what your individual role is in the event of an attack," said Staff Sgt. Gabriel Reese, staff noncommissioned officer in-charge, PSD-NBC, MACG-36. "Cover up your equipment quickly to prevent it from becoming contaminated and then seek shelter. Depending on the situation, you may be able to carry on with your work. Even in MOPP level four, things can get done."

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