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Medical Airmen reinforce deployment readiness

Staff Sgt. Nathan Gilbert, 141st Maintenance Squadron metals technician, participates in a respirator mask fit test Dec. 7, 2016 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Gilbert completed the respirator fit test as part of requirements for accomplishing his duties as a metals technician. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick J. Daniello)

Staff Sgt. Nathan Gilbert, 141st Maintenance Squadron metals technician, participates in a respirator mask fit test Dec. 7, 2016 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Gilbert completed the respirator fit test as part of requirements for accomplishing his duties as a metals technician. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick J. Daniello)

Senior Airman Ants Vahk, 92nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineer, connects a hose to a gas mask Dec. 6, 2016 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. The gas mask fit test sustains preparedness and readiness for Fairchild deployment mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick J. Daniello)

Senior Airman Ants Vahk, 92nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineer, connects a hose to a gas mask Dec. 6, 2016 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. The gas mask fit test sustains preparedness and readiness for Fairchild deployment mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick J. Daniello)

Senior Airman Ants Vahk (right), 92nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering journeyman performs a respirator fit test for Staff Sgt. Nathan Gilbert (left), 141st Maintenance Squadron metals technician, Dec. 7, 2016 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. The test is performed by hooking up a respirator to a machine called a Porta Count. One hose connects to the mask and takes account for the atmosphere within the mask, while a second hose takes in a sample from the surrounding environment that is outside the mask. The machines performs a calculation based on how many particles are outside the mask versus how many are leaking inside the mask and determines if the mask is being effective. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick J. Daniello)

Senior Airman Ants Vahk (right), 92nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering journeyman performs a respirator fit test for Staff Sgt. Nathan Gilbert (left), 141st Maintenance Squadron metals technician, Dec. 7, 2016 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. The test is performed by hooking up a respirator to a machine called a Porta Count. One hose connects to the mask and takes account for the atmosphere within the mask, while a second hose takes in a sample from the surrounding environment that is outside the mask. The machines performs a calculation based on how many particles are outside the mask versus how many are leaking inside the mask and determines if the mask is being effective. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick J. Daniello)

Senior Airman Ants Vahk (right), 92nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineer, sizes Staff Sgt. William Anderson (left), 92nd Maintenance Squadron munitions systems technician, with a sizing tool Dec. 7, 2016 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. The sizing tool gives an estimation on what size mask a person should wear. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick J. Daniello)

Senior Airman Ants Vahk (right), 92nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineer, sizes Staff Sgt. William Anderson (left), 92nd Maintenance Squadron munitions systems technician, with a sizing tool Dec. 7, 2016 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. The sizing tool gives an estimation on what size mask a person should wear. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick J. Daniello)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --

With the recent headlines about actual and possible use of chemical weapons by adversaries in various parts of the world, the job of medical bioenvironmental Airmen is as important as ever - performing gas mask fit tests to ensure Airmen have a proper fit prior to deployment.

Airmen typically complete this test only once, but the resulting gas-mask sizing sustains their preparedness and readiness for their deployed mission the rest of their career.

“The fit test ensures the mask is seated properly on an individual’s face,” said Senior Airman Ants Vahk, 92nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering journeyman and Fairchild’s respiratory protection program manager. “It refreshes their proficiency to effectively use the mask and how to properly get it to seal on their face.”

According to Vahk, the test is performed by hooking up a gas mask to a machine called a Porta Count. One hose connects to the mask and takes account for the air within the mask, while a second hose takes in a sample from the surrounding environment outside the mask. The machines performs a calculation based on how many particles are outside the mask versus how many particles leak inside the mask, therefore determining if the mask is properly sealed on the person’s face.

Throughout the fit test, participants perform different body movements that mimic their daily activities. Airmen move their heads left, right, up and down, and also reach to touch their toes. These movements test the mask’s seal to their faces.

“The test will validate through all the different exercises that replicate day-to-day movement,” said Staff Sgt. Adam Wriglesworth, 92nd AMDS bioenvironmental engineering craftsman NCO in charge of readiness and training. “It will identify different movements that cause the mask to fail or to cause the seal to break.”

Vahk said all Airmen should take the gas mask fit test seriously because if you don’t know how to properly use your gas mask, or if someone is wearing the wrong sized mask, it could potentially be fatal during a real world chemical or biological incident.

This is one of the ways medical Airmen enable Rapid Global Mobility.

Bioenvironmental engineering Airmen welcome walk-ins for gas mask fit tests Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call (509) 247-2391.