Airmen eliminate biohazards

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Janiqua P. Robinson
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

A group of Airmen start their work for the day by unloading a tub of pesticides. The weight of the tub shifts unexpectedly, crushing the leg of an Airman. Chemicals spew from the tub causing chemical burns on the Airman’s skin.

The harmful fumes from the chemicals cause the other Airmen to cough profusely, among other symptoms like burning eyes, vomiting and confusion.

This was the simulated scenario Moody’s Wing Inspection Team tested the 23d Civil Engineer Squadron’s fire department, emergency management flight and bioenvironmental flight with, during a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense exercise (CBRNE), Feb. 16, here.

“This exercise is to make sure all of our personnel are trained, equipped and ready for a real-world response,” said Chief Master Sgt. Nicole Bradley, 23d Medical Group wing inspection team lead. “Today tested our response to a chemical emergency that had [negative medical impacts]. We also had to verify what the chemical was to make sure we were giving the right health risk assessment to our personnel.”

The exercise centered on a chemical incident. While all units involved used it to reiterate lessons learned during individual training on procedures and response, Moody’s WIT also focused on how well they worked together.

“The hardest part is trying to get together to work as a team so this is essential,” said Timothy Sirmans, 23d CES installation emergency manager. “Fire, emergency management and bioenvironmental all have their individual training and we’re all very good at that. Each one of us understands a little about each other’s job, but we depend on each other to accomplish whatever task we have.”

Ensuring each member and unit is ready also means efficient coordination between the units.

“I want them to learn effective communication, to rely on their teams and their counterparts across the wing,” said Bradley. “Today we had lots of new folks out on the scene and this was their first exercise so they made a few mistakes, but this is the time to do it because we want them to be ready for the real-world.”

Leaders hoped that by handling the response exactly how they would if it were a real-world incident, the exercise would build confidence and enhance safety.

“If we have an actual [chemical] spill, these are the same people that will be on scene,” said Sirmans. “By doing this over and over again, it makes [them] and the base safer because we know what we’re doing and what we’re capable of. We have a lot of younger members that we purposely sent in so they could get this experience.”

For Airman 1st Class Nicholas Gough, 23d CES firefighter, this experience proved to be invaluable.

“This is my first base exercise for [hazardous chemicals],” said Gough. “It was an organized chaos. Being a young Airman, I’m not used to having so many personnel around training like this. It was definitely good practice for the real thing. If we know what [other units are] capable of, it helps us focus on our job because we’re not worrying about other things.”

Leaders also hoped that breaking the monotony of training as individual units allowed Airmen to see the bigger picture.

“Everyday [within the fire department] we work as a team,” said Gough. “I work with great people that I depend on and trust them with my life. It’s a great honor to work with them every single day. But, it’s nice to have other shops out here and work with them so that when an incident happens, we know how to work together.”

Throughout the exercise, each unit got to see where they needed more training and the WIT was able to evaluate how the units collaborated to complete the task.

“While we accomplished the mission,” said Sirmans. “We also learned a lot of lessons that will make us better in the future.”