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Civil engineers train for chemical attacks

by Master Sgt. Val Gempis
Air Force Print News

5/19/2005 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Civil engineers here replaced their shovels, hammers and power tools with gas masks, gloves and chemical warfare ensemble gear during ability to survive and operate training here May 18.

“This training is very important,” said Capt. Jeremy Milliman, 374th Civil Engineer Squadron’s readiness flight officer. “We need to be prepared. We may not be able to accomplish our mission if we can’t survive and operate in a chemical environment.”

Chemical warfare agents are poisonous chemicals that can produce physically irritating or fatal effects and make materials or areas unusable. The severity of the injuries depends on the type of agent, concentration of the agent used, and the method of dissemination. Chemical agents can be released by artillery shells, rockets, bombs, grenades, mines, aircraft sprays and missiles. Additionally, they can be sprayed from air, land and water vehicles or covertly used to contaminate food and water supplies.

Protection against these kinds of attacks depends heavily on how well Airmen know how to use mission oriented protective posture gear, Captain Milliman said.

“Everyone needs to know their equipment,” said Master Sgt. James Martin, readiness flight superintendent. “With the (air and space expeditionary force) deployments in full swing, the time to learn is not on the battlefield.”

About 100 Airmen, attired in MOPP gear, gathered at a baseball field across from their work buildings for an early morning inspection.

Masks, chemical over-garments, gas mask hoods, protective gloves, and protective overboots, were thoroughly checked, said Senior Airman Andre Fowlkes, a readiness flight instructor. Instructors ensured each Airman was equipped with the right equipment.

“You have to pay attention to details,” Airman Fowlkes said.

Some of the most common errors are draw strings untied or tied in a knot, he said. Another common mistake is helmets, overgarments and M-9 tapes not labeled properly.

“You can get written up during for these little things during inspections, but you can get hurt or die during real-world scenarios,” Airman Fowlkes said.

After inspection, the Airmen broke up into smaller groups and refamiliarized themselves with MOPP transition point procedures, planning post-attack reconnaissance routes and Mark-1 antidote kits. The Airmen also processed through a contamination control area.

“This is a very informative class,” said Master Sgt. Mario Lapurga, mechanical systems flight superintendent. “The most challenging part for me was taking off my protective overboots without cross-contaminating other people. I learned a lot today.”

This training re-enforces the “wingman” concept, said Staff Sgt. Walter Foggie, operations management supervisor.

“Taking care of yourself and learning how to use your equipment correctly will not only save your life but also others,” he said.

Aside from participating in Yokota’s quarterly base exercises, the 374th CES Airmen conduct unit training like this monthly. They also rehearse airfield damage repair.

“This is a great opportunity to sharpen our wartime defense skills,” Captain Milliman said. “We also have a lot of young troops in our unit now. This gives them the chance to practice and build their confidence.”

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