JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. , Sept. 11, 2019 —
Instructors begin heating tablets creating fumes that fill a small, dark, concrete room. U.S. Air Force Airmen dressed head to toe in protective gear line the inner walls of the chamber. The instructors direct the class to perform exercises until sweat trickles down the outer edge of their faces.
As the Airmen breathe heavily, the instructors order them to remove their mask, causing tears to collect in their eyes as they forcefully begin coughing from exposure to the gas.
After experiencing their brief affliction, the students are released from the chamber having successfully completed their training exercise.
Although CS gas, commonly referred to as tear gas, is nonlethal, it is uncomfortable to be exposed to. Gas chambers help provide Airmen with real-world training, allowing them to build assurance in their protective gear.
"We take our masks off in the chamber to show us exactly what the threats are out there," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Fredrick, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron Emergency Management flight noncommissioned officer in charge. "This establishes confidence in our gear so when we wear it, we know that it works."
The Airmen attended the course to get familiar with the gas chamber procedures to become instructors.
“It was important for all of us to be here for in-house training to make sure that we all take an effective approach for our training for the wing, so if we ever do take people out here to this training site, they are getting the best training possible,” Fredrick added. “So they know exactly what it protects them against and they feel confident in wearing their gear and deploying with that gear.”
The prospective instructors learned new techniques such as Mission-Oriented Protective Posture exchange. This technique is utilized when Airmen are operating in a contaminated environment for extended periods of time and are unable to go through the proper decontamination procedure with their gear.
“You can take your MOPP gear off in a contaminated area and put a new one on,” said Airman 1st Class Corelio Rothgeb, 633rd CES emergency management specialist. “You can be exposed to that environment for a limited time, putting on new gear quickly will help to protect you for the remainder of the time that you're in that hot zone.”
Developing familiarity with the protective gear and training procedures enables the Airmen to be confident instructors to properly train service members on how to be prepared for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents they may face in a deployed environment.