ALPENA, Mich. --
On a muggy midsummer day in Alpena, approximately 100 servicemembers filed into a large, hangar-like building donned in camouflaged protective gear from head-to-toe. Taking seats in metal folding chairs, cool air filtered through the open overhead door, the only relief from the congested heat.
“It’s very hard to do your job when you’re wearing your [chemical] gear,” said Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum, commander 127th Wing, “The point is to familiarize ourselves with the processes and procedures so we can seamlessly integrate into a deployed environment.”
More than 500 Citizen-Airmen of the 127th Wing mobilized during several different simulated deployments last week, culminating with the largest group on Sunday. Formerly referred to as “phase one and phase two”, the operational readiness assessment (ORA) taking place at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC), creates opportunities for troops to practice wartime taskings and reinforces readiness to deploy and operate in a wartime scenario.
“Most people in our organization haven’t done this in a long time and there are many people in our organization who have never done this type of activity,” said Slocum.
During the first two phases of the ORA, Airmen went through an administrative deployment line, travelled to and then processed into duty at the CRTC. Within an hour of processing into duty, the Airmen participated in the locally-created “Battle Lab” training, donning mission oriented protective posture (MOPP) gear in various levels of cover. This equipment includes gas masks, protective coats, trousers, boot covers, gloves and Kevlar helmets, all worn over the Airmen Battle Uniform.
“We want donning protective gear to be the easiest part of what you do,” said Tech. Sgt. Aric Kaufmann, an emergency manager with the 127th Civil Engineering Squadron, and the creator of the 127th Wing Battle Lab.
A series of five training events in a four-hour block, Kaufmann ensured the Battle Lab provides instruction on CBRNE response, decontamination practices, protecting outdoor equipment, security procedures, and chemical casualty treatment in the field, also known as self-aid buddy care.
Later in the week the unit will use the skills obtained via Battle Lab to further practice simulations in a working environment.
“Remember, this is a crawl-walk objective, I’m asking for your help,” Slocum said. “Let’s all be good Wingmen and most importantly, let’s be safe and let’s learn to do our jobs better.”