By Tech. Sgt. Bryan Hull, 446th Airlift Wing Public AffairsMarch 8, 2019
More than 80 active-duty and Reserve Citizen Airmen participated in training designed to enhance members' confidence in wearing the gas mask and protective gear during chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear training March 1 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Airmen donned their protective gear and walked into a gas filled environment to get a better understanding of how their protective equipment, especially their gas mask, is working. The real success, however, was the teamwork between active duty and Reservists that made it possible.
"The coordination required to make a training of this scale happen wouldn't be possible without everyone in both the (446th Civil Engineer Squadron) and (627th Civil Engineer Squadron) working together," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Jordan, a 627th CES emergency management craftsman. "It was a 100 percent team effort from the start and was absolutely amazing because of the 446th Airlift Wing support and everyone worked together as Team McChord. Without their support we would not have been able to facilitate the training."
While training in a gas chamber is not new to the Air Force, the opportunity for Airmen, both active duty and Reserve, to do it after basic military training is rare.
"The course is formally called the Mask Confidence Course and is designed to enhance CBRN training," said Staff Sgt. Rachel Kane, 446th CES emergency management noncommissioned officer in charge. "It allows members to get comfortable wearing their gas mask and know that it's working. This is not a requirement for CBRN training, but is a valuable tool in providing members the confidence to know that their protective gear works."
Prior to entering the gas chamber CBRN training essentials were covered, including the inspection and wearing of the mask, and going over the wear of protective clothing.
"People forget what the gas chamber is like after basic training," said Kane. "This just adds another layer of comfort and confidence to Airmen who are not comfortable about their protective equipment and gas mask. This is extremely beneficial training for Rainier Wing members because it reinforces wearing your gear properly and knowing that it works."
After the chamber was filled with a riot control gas, Airmen then got to experience wearing their protective equipment in that environment.
"While in the gas chamber, we had them do some general movements with the gear on in the gas filled environment and so you know that you're protected," said Jordan "Then we had them remove the mask, and you feel the gas. You tear up, you feel the symptoms, and know that your gear was protecting you which helps you feel better about your protective gear."
And while the training was a success, it took about a year to make it finally come together.
"We started talking about how we can help our members and boost their readiness," said Jordan. "The idea of utilizing the gas chamber was pitched to the 627th CES commander, who agreed it's a valuable tool to have members have that mask confidence training."
Jordan said the idea came up when they were talking with their Army counterparts. After much coordination with the Army, emergency management Airmen with the 627th CES and 446th CES were able to get certified to use the gas chamber facility.
"Most Air Force installations don't have this type of facility," said Jordan. "This provides a unique opportunity for Air Force members here at (JBLM) to be able to receive this training."
The 446th CES is working to schedule training for Rainier Wing Airmen later this year.