Changes coming for ‘chem refresher’ training

Airman 1st Class Chris Reyburn and Airman Christian Sousa, 552nd Air Maintenance Squadron, ensure they perform all required tasks while going through a chemical decontamination line during the ATSO (Ability to Survive and Operate) Rodeo challenge July 13. (Photo by Senior Airman Lorraine Amaro)

Airman 1st Class Chris Reyburn and Airman Christian Sousa, 552nd Air Maintenance Squadron, ensure they perform all required tasks while going through a chemical decontamination line during the ATSO (Ability to Survive and Operate) Rodeo challenge July 13. (Photo by Senior Airman Lorraine Amaro)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- When many Airmen hear the phrase, "You're scheduled for chem training," they know it's time to pull their gas mask out of their car trunk, closet or supply section and get ready for a long day of lecture, sweat and flying charcoal.
   It means at least five to six hours in a classroom watching PowerPoint slides, with the occasional "GAS, GAS, GAS!" sounding out from the instructors, making Airmen scramble to get their masks on. After the slides, Airmen have to pull on their heavy -- and usually dirty -- charcoal chemical protective overgarment, mask, hood, overboots and gloves, and go to the "gas chamber" down the road to ensure they have good mask seals. Then it is back to the contamination control area in the training building to strip the chemical protection gear piece by piece.
   By the end of the day, the Airmen are sweaty and dirty, and their uniforms mussed and covered in charcoal.
   Changes to the Chemical, Biological, Radiological/Nuclear and Explosive Warfare Defense Course during the past years have, for many Airmen, made going to refresher training easier. They no longer need to bring their entire ensemble, only their boots, gloves, mask and mask carrier. The class time has also decreased, with half the information once taught in the classroom now available online as Explosive Ordnance Reconnaissance training.
   "With the proliferation and availability of CBRNE weapons around the world, it is important for an Airman to prepare for threats that they could face while deployed or at home," said Art Wolf, CBRNE instructor in the 72nd Civil Engineering Squadron. "Changes were made to increase readiness to deploying Airmen operating in asymmetric environments."
   And there are more changes in the near future for the CBRNE course. Early in 2008, the knowledge portion of the class will be replaced with the CBRNE Awareness Computer Based Training, which is already on the Air Force's Advanced Distributed Learning Services Web site.
   "We're still working on a timeline for when we're going to officially make the change, and we're already making changes to the (Air Force Instruction)," Mr. Wolf said. "Once we get everything approved, we'll implement the new training."
   The CBRNE Awareness CBT takes about four hours to complete -- but there is a pre-test that allows Airmen to "test out," according to Mr. Wolf.
   "For those who have been to this course frequently during their careers, you can probably get through the CBT quicker than the newer Airmen," he said. "You can also take the pre-test as many times as you want. When I took the test, I got a 98 percent -- there were a few questions that even gave me a challenge."
   The second part of the training is the CBRNE Survival Skills Course, which is a hands-on portion that tests Airmen's CBRNE skills in a demonstration and performance format.
   "Basically, we're going to have you come in and show us that you can put on your mask and get a good seal within a time limit, as well as put on the protective suit, boots and gloves," Mr. Wolf said. "After that, you'll have to show us that you can go through the CCA properly and take all the protective gear off. It's basically show-and-tell: you show us you can do it, we'll tell you that you've passed."
   And the overall goal that the instructors have for the new training?
   "Airman taking this training will achieve new levels of knowledge, and will have increased confidence and skill in their protective equipment," Mr. Wolf said. "And that is the most important reason for the Air Force."