Mobility Airmen sharpen chemical defense skills

Senior Airman Co Nguyen, 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron logistics journeyman, teaches a group of Fairchild Airmen about chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear equipment during an exercise, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington Nov. 30, 2017. Emergency management instructors are extensively trained on all CBRN gear using live agents to help them build confidence in their equipment and our methods of detecting and decontaminating contaminants. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

Senior Airman Co Nguyen, 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron logistics journeyman, teaches a group of Fairchild Airmen about chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear equipment during an exercise, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington Nov. 30, 2017. Emergency management instructors are extensively trained on all CBRN gear using live agents to help them build confidence in their equipment and our methods of detecting and decontaminating contaminants. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

Airman 1st Class Ashley Sanchez, 92nd Communication Squadron knowledge management, demonstrates how to cover an asset in the case of a chemical attack during an exercise, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington Nov. 30, 2017. Environmental attacks may affect more than the Airmen themselves, as agents can remain on equipment surfaces and render them unusable. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

Airman 1st Class Ashley Sanchez, 92nd Communication Squadron knowledge management, demonstrates how to cover an asset in the case of a chemical attack during an exercise, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington Nov. 30, 2017. Environmental attacks may affect more than the Airmen themselves, as agents can remain on equipment surfaces and render them unusable. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

Airman 1st Class Michael Sweeney, 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, prepares a par stand during an exercise, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington Nov. 30, 2017. Mobility Airmen are trained in the detection of chemical and biological agents, a top priority in the wake of an enemy attack. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

Airman 1st Class Michael Sweeney, 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, prepares a par stand during an exercise, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington Nov. 30, 2017. Mobility Airmen are trained in the detection of chemical and biological agents, a top priority in the wake of an enemy attack. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

Senior Airman Co Nguyen, 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron logistics journeyman, helps an airman properly dawn a M50 gas mask during an exercise, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington Nov. 30, 2017. Mobility Airmen are trained to be wary of potential CBRN environments, as they can appear normal to naked eye. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

Senior Airman Co Nguyen, 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron logistics journeyman, helps an airman properly dawn a M50 gas mask during an exercise, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington Nov. 30, 2017. Mobility Airmen are trained to be wary of potential CBRN environments, as they can appear normal to naked eye. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

Team Fairchild Airmen train in how to prepare for a chemical attack, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington Nov. 30, 2017. Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear training is a vital readiness component for all Mobility Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

Team Fairchild Airmen train in how to prepare for a chemical attack, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington Nov. 30, 2017. Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear training is a vital readiness component for all Mobility Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Sean Campbell)

Airman 1st Class Nicholas Loew, 92nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Fuels Distribution apprentice, dons a M50 gas mask as part of an exercise at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Nov. 30, 2017. The M50 gas mask is the latest generation of CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) protective gear. (U.S. Air Force Photo/ Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Airman 1st Class Nicholas Loew, 92nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Fuels Distribution apprentice, dons a M50 gas mask as part of an exercise at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Nov. 30, 2017. The M50 gas mask is the latest generation of CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) protective gear. (U.S. Air Force Photo/ Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Airmen clad in full chemical warfare protective equipment analyze a post attack reconnaissance stand during an exercise at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Nov. 30, 2017. PAR stands are one of many detection tools used to show evidence of harmful chemical agents. (U.S. Air Force Photo/ Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Airmen clad in full chemical warfare protective equipment analyze a post attack reconnaissance stand during an exercise at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Nov. 30, 2017. PAR stands are one of many detection tools used to show evidence of harmful chemical agents. (U.S. Air Force Photo/ Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Four large tents flapped in the brisk winter wind as three white school buses slowly drove up, stopping with a squeal of the air-brakes releasing.

Dozens of Airmen disembarked, hailing from many of the base offices and shops. The instructors emerged from the tent classrooms to greet the more than 100 trainees for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Ability to Survive and Operate training.

“We trained 539 Airmen on CBRN ATSO over the course of a week,” said Senior Airman Randi Hendrix, 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron emergency manager. “We built the training site so that we are prepared to face current threats.”

Surviving is the first order of business during an attack, and first aid techniques, known as Self Aid and Buddy Care, are vital knowledge.

After training on care under fire and using the Joint First Aid Kit, students were then issued Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear such as suits, masks, gloves and boots before taking shelter in an assigned tent.

“Emergency managers are extensively trained on all CBRN gear using live agents,” Hendrix said. “We’re trained like that to help build confidence in the equipment and our methods of detecting and decontaminating contaminants so we don’t hesitate in the event of an actual attack.”

Trainees carefully checked their gear, testing to ensure seals were tight and mask valves work properly before donning the suit and boots; mask and gloves at the ready. Some CBRN agents manifest harmful symptoms within seconds of exposure, so knowing procedures and keeping calm may not only save one Airman’s life, but of those nearby.

“It’s mostly your mind that will keep you alive,” Hendrix said. “A panicked individual can endanger others, so even if exposed, knowing these procedures and calmly going through the steps will help everyone stay alive.”

ATSO Training In Action
A klaxon suddenly blares outside to warn of a simulated attack, “We’re under attack, masks on and heads down!” calls Hendrix.

The trainees swiftly finish their protective measures by donning masks and gloves, helping neighbors and hitting the deck within seconds.

Time passes. The suits are heavy and warm, the masks claustrophobic in the dimly-lit tent, but the Airmen call upon their training and wait patiently for the signal they can safely move again.

A voice over a loudspeaker conveys the attack is finally over, but now the students must learn to contend with potential CBRN hazards.
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“I’m a fan of controlled combat environments,” said Master Sgt. Brandon Tillman, 92nd Security Forces Squadron flight chief. “It’s a hands-on classroom in a realistic, deployed setting… the kind of experience you just can’t get out of a book.”

Instructor Hendrix rallied her class to head out and patrol the grounds around their camp to check the aftermath of the attack.

“There can be unexploded ordnance, contamination or wounded after an attack,” Hendrix said. “It’s vital to secure personnel, buildings and assets quickly and safely so that mission operations can continue.”

Safeguarding against a chemical attack is one thing, but knowing how to neutralize and contain the hazards is equally important, as the class reviewed detection, prevention and containment procedures while fully suited up.

Rapid Global Mobility is only possible if Airmen are ready to execute the mission through any situation. “It was a good training,” Hendrix said. “This will help these Airmen be ready for anything.”