ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
“Alarm Red, MOPP level four!” the instructor yells to 30 students as he studies their reactions. The class of Airmen, noncommissioned officers and officers hastily apply their mission oriented protective posture gear. After carefully tightening their protective masks, donning hoods and pulling on gloves, they inspect each other to make sure no amount of skin is exposed to potential threats in the air. The instructors review each individual to ensure they have mastered the fundamentals and can survive, sustain and function during an attack.
In addition to several other duties, emergency management Airmen are responsible for training base personnel on how to protect themselves and military assets from chemical, biological, nuclear and environmental hazards.
“Our main focus is CBRNE,” said Airman 1st Class Jacquelyn Clark, a 28th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management apprentice. “When we teach a class, we’re teaching everyone how to properly suit up so that, in case of a CBRNE attack, they’re not hurting themselves by not knowing the steps to take to protect themselves.”
Emergency management Airmen here work with the 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron and 28th Medical Operations Squadron bioenvironmental engineering flight to keep Ellsworth Air Force Base Airmen proficient with their MOPP gear.
“[The 28th] LRS issues out the gear,” Clark said. “Bioenvironmental does the mask fit test, and we’re the ones that teach [Airmen] how to use the whole suit.”
A normal CBRNE class is led by two instructors, has 30 students and can last one and a half hours inside the 28th CES headquarters building.
“It’s very important that we constantly train,” Clark said. “We want to make sure that our people are ready in case an attack happens.”
During the classes, Clark demonstrates how to properly store and wear MOPP gear, cover assets, and test surfaces for chemical agents. She also talks students through pre- and post-attack actions.
“We want our people to be prepared, so when they do deploy and they’re working on the mission, whether it’s maintaining an aircraft or building a flight line, they’re able to protect themselves,” she said.
By proactively training for the risk of a CBRNE attack, Airmen will be better equipped for when they need to rely on the skills they learned.
“I think the threat has always been there,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Dreksler, the 28th CES emergency management NCO in charge of training. “Hopefully nobody ever has to use it, but when it does happen, you want to make sure they are ready.”
While it’s Dreksler’s job to ensure Airmen meet their training requirements, he also enjoys instructing these life-saving abilities to Airmen ready to deploy.
“My favorite class to teach is CBRNE,” he said. “It’s a longer class, but I like being able to actually show people and get hands-on rather just doing a slide show. You get to see people suit up and actually practice their skills.”
Dreksler said that emergency management Airmen “practice how they play” because, someday, this training might save someone’s life.