IPE team gears up 52nd FW

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- There's hardly ever a dull moment in the individual protective equipment section. People in this section are busy making sure everyone on Spangdahlem Air Base and geographically separated units are ready to deploy at any given moment. This includes making sure mobility gear is in serviceable condition, items will not expire while deployed and everyone who is eligible obtains their new gas mask.

Master Sgt. Lee Ayers, the IPE section chief and overseer of the gas mask issue process, and his people are hard at work to ensure the servicemembers are properly taken care of for training exercises and real-world deployments.

"We've been handling things well, especially with having to help so many people," said Airman Constance N. Grenier, 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron IPE section. "We accomplish a lot because we work together as a team."

Why is IPE so busy these days?

"Everyone wants their new mask and wants to be in compliance for the Phase II exercise beginning Aug. 4," said Sergeant Ayers. "If you have the old battle dress overgarments, you can come exchange them for the newer joint service suits when you pick up the new mask."

The new M-50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask is quite different from the old MCU-2/P Gas Mask, which was adopted by the Air Force in 1983. The M-50 was manufactured to fit the joint-service chemical suit. The Air Force is receiving new masks because they are generally more comfortable, easier to clean and better designed, and the M-50 can be used by all services, thus saving money for the Department of Defense.

The new gas mask arrived at Spangdahlem in March, and the IPE section is working tediously to get people the new masks. To meet the needs of more servicemembers, the IPE section set up appointments in conjunction with Combat Intro and First Term Airman Center classes, both introductory courses for incoming Sabers.

There was such a demand the IPE section coordinated with the emergency management and bioenvironmental flights to initiate additional classes.

Thus began the new schedule: Walk-ins are now held every first and third Tuesday of the month at 8 a.m. This change made providing the appropriate equipment to Airmen easier, as EM could accommodate these times and Bio offered increased walk-in hours for the fit test.

When the additional classes began, it was unpredictable how many people would show up because of the base-wide need for the new gas masks.

"There were more than 150 people, which is massive in comparison to the 30 or 40 people we normally get," said Airman 1st Class Aaron B. Crockett, 52nd LRS IPE section. "My supervisor managed the situation and personnel flawlessly. She was able to change her original plan to accommodate all the people as the situation warranted by placing them in alternate locations on the fly.

"We refused to turn anyone away, and we were able to have three different classes held for people without delay. We all came together as a team to help everyone, and everyone either received a new mask or a serviceable old mask," Airman Crockett said.

As of now, IPE has issued more than 3,300 M-50 masks to the base. In order to receive the proper equipment and training, servicemembers need to show up on time with everything they need during the scheduled times. Items that are needed include, but are not limited to, the previously-issued gas mask, BDOs, an exemption letter if gear was not previously issued, and the new gas-mask inserts, if applicable.

"The most popular question we receive is, 'Why do I need the new gas mask inserts in order to get the new mask?' " Sergeant Ayers said. "Everyone on Spangdahlem needs to know that from a mobility stand-point, we have to make sure that when you leave our section, you have everything you need if you were to deploy at a moment's notice. Although Bio could test you without the inserts, if you received a short-notice tasking without the new inserts, you would not be deployment ready. Having an appointment for your inserts does not suffice."

Providing the equipment and training necessary for Airmen to continue the mission has been an overall team effort, which will continue in order to assist Sabers.

"Thank you to all of the unit deployment managers who work with the IPE team in order to ensure their members are up to date with what they need and are in compliance with Air Force standards," Sergeant Ayers added.

Side note: To pick up a new gas mask, servicemembers can go to the Individual Protective Equipment Section in building 103 every first and third Tuesdays of the month at 8 a.m. After issue, servicemembers can get a gas mask fit test. No appointment is necessary. For questions or more information, call Staff Sgt. Tonea Johnson at 452-4466.