18th CES CEX keeps personnel safe during decon phase
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen pull their gas masks out of their container, place them against their face, tighten the straps and ensure a tight seal has been made during a Mission Focused Exercise here Jan. 30.
Once the hoods of their individual protective equipment are tightened and their Kevlar helmets fastened, they proceed to check each other, ensuring proper wear of their IPE.
They sit in the truck and wait for another loud voice to come over the speakers sounding base-wide, a sign to begin their mission.
For the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management flight, this is just the beginning of the process to detect chemical agents within their area of the base. Once their sector has been checked, they proceed to a checkpoint and wait for further instruction.
A voice comes over the radio instructing each reconnaissance team to set up a contamination control area.
"The CCA is the entire area the decontamination is happening in," said Airman 1st Class Zachary Paskovitch, 18th CES emergency manager and responder. "The area consists of a cold zone, warm zone and hot zone. Normally when we set up a CCA, it should be along the border of a contaminated area, the warm zone will be the area where (Airmen) decontaminate and then they'll move into the cold zone, which is past the decontamination line where it's clean."
There are two types of CCAs, a hit-and-run CCA and a large scale CCA. A hit-and-run CCA is used in a situation where a Post Attack Reconnaissance team is contaminated, and can be set up within 30 minutes to process approximately two to four personnel. Large scale CCAs are able to process more than 50 personnel, in the event that an entire building is contaminated and all personnel have to be decontaminated.
"These are important because whenever a person becomes contaminated, they cannot get out of their gear until we safely monitor and remove their gear from them," Paskovitch said. "The process of decontaminating people who have been contaminated is to initially monitor them, watch them take off their external IPE, watch them wash their hands, take off their boots and suits, give them a final monitor before removing their masks and then send them home."
Ensuring personnel are properly decontaminated impacts the mission of the base when personnel have been taken away from duty.
"In a real world situation where people do become contaminated on this base, we need to make sure we're up to speed and able to get them out of that gear and issue them new gear very fast so they can get right back to working and continue the mission," Paskovitch said. "If we couldn't do this then they couldn't continue the mission until they were out of gear some other way."
Paskovitch added that one difference between previous exercises and the current MFE was how often their teams have set up CCAs.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Gapetz, 18th Wing Inspection Team member, said this training is important for the base because it's not something people see every day.
"The decontamination process is a lengthy process, nobody really sees that until they come out here and fundamentally do that," Gapetz said. "Repetition for the decon process is imperative for force survivability, you go from a possibly contaminated environment to a clean area, you want to make sure it's a lock step procedure to ensure our personnel are taken care of and there is no cross contamination occurring."
Gapetz said, from an emergency management perspective, repetition has awarded an opportunity to exercise capabilities and shows the base what 18th CES emergency management responders bring to the table.