SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Forty Airmen arrived at Bldg. 2113’s loading dock in the early morning hours June 27, 2018, at Sheppard AFB to assess their readiness skills in five areas they could encounter in a deployed environment.
It was the first of what will be regular Ability to Survive and Operate exercises, said Master Sgt. Ronald Studer, superintendent of the 82nd Training Wing Plans, Programs and Exercises office. He said the goal of the recurring drills is to improve the field skills of Airmen as well as their ability to quickly and accurately don MOPP, or mission oriented protective posture, gear should a chemical, biological, radiologic or nuclear threat exist.
“Hopefully they’ll never have to use it,” he said. “But when the time comes, if you have to use it, you’ll know how.”
Airmen processed through a small mobility line before picking up their MOPP gear to begin the exercise deployment. After a couple briefings from subject matter experts ranging from civil engineering to safety and medical and putting on MOPP level 2 gear, the Airmen “deployed” to the fire training area on Sheppard.
While deployed, four groups of Airmen rotated between four stations including pre-attack, weapons, self-aid and buddy care, and post-attack reconnaissance. The Airmen had to demonstrate specific skill sets at each location as they would have to perform them in real-world situations.
It was at the post-attack reconnaissance station where the Airmen had to transition from MOPP 2 level protection to MOPP 4, the stage at which Airmen were completely covered from head to toe with a specialized suit, rubber gloves, a flak vest and gas mask.
“The main focus right now is ensuring Airmen can transition to the proper gear level based on the threat in a timely and proficient manner,” Studer said. “You know, MOPP level configurations do not vary from base-to-base. You need your gloves, you need your boots, you need your mask. This skill-set is viable at every location, so that's what we're practicing.”
The fifth station, the gas mask confidence facility, awaited the Airmen after the four skill-set stations were completed. Jeremy Kirk, Sheppard AFB emergency management coordinator, donned his protective gear and released a chemical irritant in the small structure to simulate such an attack. Airmen were required to enter the facility in MOPP 4 gear to gain a better understanding of how the equipment protects them from the irritants.
Participants also experienced the sensation of a chemical irritant when they removed their hood and gas mask before exiting the building.
Studer said each station is designed to teach Airmen how to function in the gear and survive a CBRN threat.
The superintendent said the success of the ATSO rodeo training was a team effort that included the 82nd TRW Inspector General, 82nd Security Forces Squadron, 82nd Medical Group, 82nd Logistics Readiness Squadron and 82nd Civil Engineer Squadron.