Chemical-Gear-Clad Airmen Launch Selfridge Aircraft

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
The thing with most jobs in the Air Force is that the job needs to be done right. The first time. No matter the challenges.

"Our people are working with precision equipment, sending aircraft and pilots into the air," explained Lt. Col. Rolf Mammen, 127th Maintenance Group commander. "The job must be done right every time. When you add something different to the mix, you need to slow down and think about what you are doing."

On Oct. 13, the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft maintainers at Selfridge Air National Guard Base added plenty to the mix: heavy overcoats, helmets, gas masks and a thick pair of rubber gloves.

"Just being able to move in these gloves, it take a little longer and you have to be more deliberate about it," Mammen said.

As part of the 127th Wing's ongoing readiness training, A-10 maintainers launched and recovered about a dozen aircraft on Oct. 13, working in various protective gear designed to keep them safe and allow them to operate in a potential chemical warfare environment. The training is required periodically of all Air Force personnel to allow them to be ready for a wide range of possible contingencies.

"Otherwise, this gear is just sitting in a locker and you look at it once in a while and wonder what it would be like to wear it," said Airman 1st Class Justin Harris, an engine specialist with the maintenance group.

Across the 1,600-member 127th Wing in October, all Airmen spent a least two hours wearing their chemical protective suits and related equipment, getting refresher training on how to operate in a chemical environment. In addition, a number of units within the wing spent all or part of a duty day performing their daily operations while in the protective gear.

"It does get to be difficult due to wearing the gear," Harris said. "But you don't want to get onto the battle field and something happens where you have to put on your gear and you haven't worn it for a while."

Harris said that while wearing the gear can present challenges, the Air Force has made improvements in recent years in the protective equipment issued to Airmen.

"The new gas mask is a lot easier to breathe in, you get a better air flow in it," he said. "You also get a clear line of sight that makes it more comfortable to wear over a long period of time."

Over the past year, the 127th Wing has issued all Airmen the new M-50 gas mask, specifically designed to make the improvements noticed by Harris during his training day.

"Spending a whole day wearing it, this gets you mentally prepared" for any possibility, Harris said.