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Totally toxic training: Joint exercise tests mission capability

Senior Airman Skyler Miller, 78th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Bioenvironmental engineer journeyman, tests her gas mask at the start of a chlorine response field training exercise at Warrior Air Base March 27. The goal of the exercise was to test teamwork skills and processes during a simulated emergency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ed Aspera)

Senior Airman Skyler Miller, 78th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Bioenvironmental engineer journeyman, tests her gas mask at the start of a chlorine response field training exercise at Warrior Air Base March 27. The goal of the exercise was to test teamwork skills and processes during a simulated emergency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ed Aspera)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Donning oxygen masks and tanks and brightly colored blue and green hazardous material suits, three Airmen made their way from the command center to the back of a building to find a chemical agent.

As part of a joint training exercise between the fire department, civil engineering, bioenvironmental engineering and emergency management, the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear, Emergency response force descended on Warrior Air Base here to conduct its mission.

The command post was a large truck filled with equipment needed to respond to a security threat with biological elements. 

Instructions were given for those participating. Precautions were taken just like they would be in a real scenario.

The suits - complete with oxygen masks and tanks - are part of the safety measures required when a hazmat threat takes place.

"We use Level A when we aren't certain what's going on. We go with worse case and protect against it," Staff Sgt. Shellie Vincent, 778th Civil Engineer Squadron Operations Emergency Management Flight NCOIC, said.

Vincent went on to explain that the training was to improve teamwork and processes during a hazmat situation.

As part of the scenario, a mock chlorine gas cylinder was hooked up to an air intake which caused choking and headaches along with hypoxia, a lack of oxygen. 

As part of the simulation, one person was taken to the hospital for evaluation, said Chief Master Sgt. Jay Moreau.

The trio was evaluated for their detective skills in the exercise as well as how well they followed procedures. Each person had their vitals checked before and after the exercise.

The training is done at least once a month, sometimes in the field like the March 27 exercise, other times it's in the classroom.

"These are perishable skills," said Staff Sgt. Barham Bratton, Bioenvironmental Engineering Training NCOIC, who designed the scenario.