Airmen participate in base readiness exercise

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Saber Nation’s usual operations came to a halt as personnel donned bulky suits, heavy helmets, and gas masks, transforming the base into a simulated wartime training environment.

U.S. Air Force Airmen participated in a base-wide exercise here, Sept. 10-14, 2018, in an effort to maintain the highest level of readiness.

“We’ve taken a lot of time to prepare the base through our ability to survive and operate training,” said Master Sgt. Jonathan Maas, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron Readiness and Emergency Management flight chief.

The 52nd CES provided the installation with gear and supplies needed to detect chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear contamination, said U.S. Air Force Capt. Austin McCall, 52nd CES Readiness and Emergency Management flight commander.

The event stressed the importance CBRN and ATSO training, periodically requiring Airmen to don mission-oriented protective posture gear. MOPP gear includes a hooded suit, helmet, rubber boots and gloves, gas mask, and a canteen compatible with the mask to hydrate. Airmen reinforced their ability to continue the mission in challenging and variable conditions.

“They accomplished their job wearing MOPP gear,” Maas said. “Airmen got a chance to test their skills and see how they could do their job in a contaminated environment.”

Airmen worked a rotation of days and nights, responding to various simulated scenarios such as chemical attacks.

“It just prepares them and makes them work in an environment where if it were to happen, they are familiar with it,” McCall said. “It’s a multifaceted environment that we’re trying to prepare for.”

The exercise stressed the ability to quickly recognize and respond to a diverse variety of contamination, McCall said.

“Obviously we can’t simulate a natural disaster,” McCall said. “But we can at least let people understand what it is to work in a chemical environment by giving them gear to work in – fortunately without the threat of actual chemicals at the time, so they’re comfortable and understand what they need to do and how to do it to still get the mission done.”

Airmen wore MOPP gear to accomplish their normal duties as well as practice responding to hazard scenarios.

“Practice makes perfect and becomes muscle memory,” Maas said. “How to put the suit on, how to drive in MOPP four — that is really what this is about: getting Airmen familiar with those concepts, the gear, and being able to do that in a high-stress environment.”

Besides CBRN threats, Airmen responded to simulated scenarios tailored to their unit’s specific objectives.

“Airmen are realizing that threats are changing throughout the world,” Maas said.

Among the ATSO scenarios were inbound missiles, a motor vehicle accident, building fire, and aircraft crash. Recovery success required Airmen to proactively identify and solve problems in a quick, disciplined fashion.

The exercise validated the 52nd Fighter Wing’s ability to organize, train, and equip for wartime operations.

“Exercises are very important because they make you think beyond your normal day-to-day job,” McCall said. “It becomes a whole new mindset of what is the true mission. It really gets to a tip-of-the-spear mindset.”

The event was designed to build upon previous readiness exercises and push the wing to achieve the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s number one priority — to restore readiness to win any fight, any time.

 “It is important that these Airmen are learning these skills,” Maas said. “That shows our adversaries that we’re going to be ready to fight wherever.”

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