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Glory To The Gas Mask - Troops Learn To Love the Uncomfortable Lifesaving Equipment
Albuquerque Journal | January 26, 2003 | Miguel Navrot

Posted on 01/29/2003 5:53:27 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE Hot. Restrictive. A claustrophobe's nightmare. And that's just the head gear.

In both peacetime and war, the U.S. military regularly drills hundreds of thousands of service members on getting into and wearing the gas mask.

The testing involves having each service member correctly strap on the mask within seconds, creating an airtight seal against the face. It is a normal preparation for chemical and biological warfare, taught alongside first aid and service weapon proficiency.

Wearing one is neither pleasant nor comfortable, but that isn't the point. Combined with gloves, galoshes and an additional layer of clothing worn over fatigues, the gas mask may be a lifesaver for troops facing chemical weapon attack.

"It's not fun, but you have to go through with it," Air Force Staff Sgt. Markus Maier said of the suit.

While comfort is secondary to staying alive, it is a concern. Donning this modern armor inhibits movement for those inside. Wearing it for hours can leave troops drenched in their own sweat.

Those temperatures become dangerously hot when combined with the Middle East's stifling summer heat.

"Anyone wearing (this) is basically looking at being slowly roasted as time goes by," said Francois Boo, an associate research analyst of the Washington think tank

At Kirtland Air Force Base, contractors conduct classes for airmen on the masks and suits, teaching about the threats service members face when deployed. The training is also intended to instill faith that the gas mask will work when needed.

The Air Force's modern mask is strapped onto the face with three adjustable straps in the back. Attached to the mask is a rubber hood with a draw string that closes around the service member's neck.

Inside one, vision is distorted slightly by the plastic eye shield's curvature. Breathing is a respiratory tug-of-war, pulling and pushing air through the cylindrical filter.

While not designed for those who prefer their spaces open and wide, the mask does its job.

Lessons at Kirtland involve walking masked airmen inside an old munition bunker brimming with riot-control gas. Inside the chamber for a few minutes, airmen take off the masks, standing exposed.

The burn is stronger than any sort of bottled hot sauce, Chinese mustard or wasabi on the grocery shelf. Airmen react with closed eyelids and oozing mucus. When the unfiltered gas becomes unbearable, they are free to leave.

Outside, wind cleanses gas within minutes from tearing eyes and running noses.

The military often says it trains as it fights. If chemical warfare training is any indication, hot-weather work will be done in spurts.

Maier, who works in Kirtland's Public Affairs Office, was once trained one summer years ago in Saudi Arabia. There, crews wearing the full-body suit spent two hours working and one off, trying to recuperate.

Staff Sgt. Patricia Castro, who works in Kirtland's protocol office, said doing administrative duties in mask, suit and gloves is much slower. Typing in the heavy gloves, for example, usually requires using anything available to peck the keyboard keys.

"The back of a pencil usually works," Castro said.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: miltech

1 posted on 01/29/2003 5:53:28 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen
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To: Stand Watch Listen
Wingnut sissies.

Soldiers know and love their chemical protective masks. I'll bet almost all wingnuts have never tasted CS.
2 posted on 01/29/2003 5:58:15 AM PST by Ispy4u
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To: Stand Watch Listen
Typing in MOPP4? Trying working on aircraft - picking up quarter inch nuts and bolts, doing safety wire, using micrometers and the like. We invited McDonnell Douglas, Pratt and Whitney, and General Dynamics out to try using their tech orders while in a suit. They declined. We would spend 12 hours per shift in full suit and mask and trying to work during our exercises - I couldn't even imagine having to be in combat in one. But - better to be in one than not to be.
3 posted on 01/29/2003 5:58:42 AM PST by Tennessee_Bob (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line)
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To: Stand Watch Listen
I remember going on a PT run in the summer time in full MOPP 4 (gas mask, hood, gloves, rubber overboots and a heavy charcoal suit). Ugh.
4 posted on 01/29/2003 5:59:33 AM PST by Riley
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To: Ispy4u
Your ignorance is showing. I spent 22 years in the AF and each time I was in an overseas unit or subject to deployment to an overseas area I had to go to the Chamber every six months. I also had to go to the chamber in basic training and each time they changed the chemical equipment for a refresher.

I also had to spend a six hour period in the full ensemble every four months while performing my regular duties. This included times when the outside temperature was over 100 degrees.

5 posted on 01/29/2003 6:04:40 AM PST by mbynack
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To: mbynack
Jet engine mechanic here - what did you do?
6 posted on 01/29/2003 6:15:51 AM PST by Tennessee_Bob (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line)
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To: Tennessee_Bob
Command and Control, Decon Crew, Heavy Equipment Mechanic. What did you work on?
7 posted on 01/29/2003 6:19:21 AM PST by mbynack
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To: mbynack
Ignorance? No, more like completely knowledgeable of how the AF whines and complains about stuff the Army does regularly.

The fact that basic chem training is worth a report makes me laugh.

Yep, I'm ignorant
8 posted on 01/29/2003 6:20:37 AM PST by Ispy4u (more contempt than ignorance.)
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To: Stand Watch Listen
The gas chamber experience is one you'll never forget. The tear gas is a particularly unpleasant agent - it doesn't just make your eyes water and your mucus membranes swell, it makes you retch while you're eyes and nose are streaming freely. You'll LOVE your gas mask after that, which is of course the intent of the exercise.
9 posted on 01/29/2003 6:25:26 AM PST by jimt
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To: Ispy4u
The fact that you were in the Army doesn't make you an expert on the Air Force.

A lot of the work done in toughest combat areas of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanastan was done by Air Force special ops, combat control teams, forward air controllers, and pilots.

I spent three years in a mobile radar unit and we lived in the same conditions as the Army. We lived in tents, ate C-Rats and MREs, and stayed in the field for 179 days at a time. I spent another six years in the Rapid Deployment Forces and deployed to the middle east and lived in tents over there, too.

I had friends who were combat controllers, para-rescuers, and MOB members who went deeper into enemy controlled areas than any Army units, except for the special operators.

10 posted on 01/29/2003 6:29:32 AM PST by mbynack
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To: mbynack
Look, don't let my contempt for the entire AF get under your skin.

I know full well that there are AF guys from PJ's to Weather guys who endure the same stuff that the Army does.

Fact is the biggest portion of the AF doesn't know the difference between the field and that plot of corn outside the front gate.

I know my comments were pointed and seemed to be personal but I'm just your regular old crusty soldier who will forever be able to pick on the AF.
11 posted on 01/29/2003 6:40:06 AM PST by Ispy4u (because they wear pockets for gloves ; ))
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To: mbynack
F-15s and F-16s. Also Auxillary Security Police, and airbase ground defense fire support team.
12 posted on 01/29/2003 6:43:33 AM PST by Tennessee_Bob (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line)
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To: Tennessee_Bob
I finished off my career with the F-15s at Tyndall. I was the Superintendent of the pilot training school there. It's still a great airplane even though it's over 20 years old.
13 posted on 01/29/2003 6:48:59 AM PST by mbynack
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To: mbynack
Amen to that - the Eagle is a great platform. The 16 is a neat toy, but I'd take another incentive flight in a 15 any day.
14 posted on 01/29/2003 6:51:53 AM PST by Tennessee_Bob (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line)
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To: Ispy4u
I'm still a little hot about the story last month about the AF guys whining about conditions in Afghanastan. (The exchange didn't carry their brand of toothpaste or something.) I just hate to see the rest of the Air Force grouped in with that whiner.

I don't know if you saw the reports early in the Afghan conflict, but Air Force FACs were assigned to Afghan military units and were living in the same conditions as they were. These weren't the guys complaining. The guy who complained and alerted the media was living in fairly decent conditions considering the situation.

I have a lot of admiration for the other branches and I'll admit that the "Average" Air Force guy has it quite a bit better than the "Average" member of any of the other services.

15 posted on 01/29/2003 6:57:36 AM PST by mbynack
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To: *miltech
16 posted on 01/29/2003 6:58:33 AM PST by Free the USA (Stooge for the Rich)
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To: mbynack
Red Horse?
17 posted on 01/29/2003 12:48:47 PM PST by Britton J Wingfield
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To: Britton J Wingfield
I was never assigned to RED HORSE, but I deployed with the guys from Indian Springs a couple of times.
18 posted on 01/29/2003 1:14:55 PM PST by mbynack
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To: Stand Watch Listen
While on this topic, I was wondering if anyone had any links to websites with information on Gas Mask filters...of all types??? Without going into too much detail, I work on a federal reservation and I have been provided with several masks to hand out to my staff, including the M14 and M40A1 models, complete with standard military filter. I'm hearing from a source that the filter in the M14, a light olive green, unmarked model, has been with the mask since delivered some 12 years ago. I have no idea how long the M40A1 has been around, but the filters also look original. Regardless, if anyone knows of a link, let me know. I have tried search engines a few times and get cluttered in commercial sites selling masks, and when I look towards military sites, it focuses on training the troop on how to don/clear. Nothing ever leads to filter, unless it speaks of not dropping or getting wet. Any guidance towards shelf life and exact chemical use would be greatly appreciated.

19 posted on 02/04/2003 5:07:01 PM PST by King_of_Hindsight
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