Selfridge Airmen Learn to Survive, Operate in War Scenarios

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
There are many things to learn during a block of ATSO training. There's instruction on what to do with contaminated materials and a new product to help protect skin exposed to a chemical agent. There's equipment to wear and procedures to review. But at the end of the day, there is a simple bottom line: this is training to give an Airman the ability to survive and operate in a variety of chemical, nuclear and biological warfare scenarios.

"In this training, Airmen learn the ability to survive a disaster, a ground or chemical attack," said Staff Sgt. Chris Tarquino, a member of the 127th Civil Engineer Emergency Management Flight, which organized the training for some 1,600 Airmen of the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich.

The ATSO training - Ability to Survive & Operate - was part of an extended four-day "drill weekend" for members of the Michigan Air National Guard at Selfridge. As part of the training plan, all members of the 127th Wing attended the ATSO class, received their annual flu shot and other immunizations and conducted a number of other large-scale unit-specific training exercises, such as launching and recovering aircraft in a simulated chemical attack environment and conducting survival training for "downed" pilots.

"It is all about being uncomfortable for a few hours now, so that if the time comes, you'll be able to survive later," said Chief Master Sgt. Mike Carroll, superintendent of the emergency management flight, which organized the ATSO portion of the training.

In the ATSO training, eight stations were set up in an aircraft hangar. Upon arriving at the hangar, Airmen put on their protective chemical suit and moved from station to station, learning the correct procedures for responding to a potential attack and aftermath. At various points through the training, Airmen were required to quickly put their gas mask on, in an effort to help the Airmen gain a comfort level with the gas mask.

"Being comfortable and confident in using the equipment that's provided is an important part of the process," said Tarquino.

A member of the emergency management flight for the past seven years at Selfridge, Tarquino said he enjoys the challenge of helping to prepare the force to operate in any type of environment. Tarquino recently returned to Selfridge after a more than six-month deployment to Afghanistan, where he worked on force protection measures, another key component of the emergency management flight's responsibilities.

Among the students in one of the first ATSO training rotations were Staff Sgt. Robert Sarazian and Technical Sgt. Jim Coleman, both members of the ammunitions shop in the 127th Maintenance Squadron. As ammo troops, their responsibility is to prepare and deliver the bombs and missiles that are loaded on to the 127th Wing's A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, meaning they would need to be able to operate in an outdoor environment to support a launch of aircraft.

"In the case of a chemical attack, you have to know what you need to do to keep going," Sarazian said.

Coleman agreed.

"This is about how to be prepared, better safety than sorry," he said.