On Your Mark, Get Set...CBRNE!

On Your Mark, Get Set...CBRNE!

by Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm, 51 FW/PA
Osan Air Base

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- 51st Civil Engineer Squadron at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea hosted the Marines of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing out of Camp Foster, Japan, resulting in a win for 51st CES Firefighters during the second annual Marine Responders Fitness Test Competition held here March 20, 2015.

The competition was to mark the end of the week Marines spent training with fellow Emergency Management technicians from the 51st CES on various counter chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats. While there are core similarities in the CBRNE programs of both the U.S. Air Force and the Marine Corps, there are enough differences to make this joint training highly beneficial to the CBRNE specialists of both services.

The competition consisted of four, four man teams performing a series of tasks designed to test the endurance and problem solving capabilities of its participants.  First, competitors pulled hand carts loaded down with 200 pounds worth of sand bags twice around the bases outdoor Mustang Track, second required a body drag for one lap around the interior. Next, they used sandbags to construct a barrier to block water flow to a drain before the last event: the 50 yard buddy carry.

The teams were judged not only on how quickly they were able to accomplish each venture but also on their overall air consumption.  Oxygen readings were taken at the beginning and end of each team's turn to be factored in to the overall score.

The true difficulty in this undertaking was that all tasks were performed while wearing two types of full class B CBRNE protection suits with breathing apparatus. Studies on the effect of CBRNE equipment and the wearer conducted by Arthur T. Johnson, PHD,  have shown there to be a significant increase in stressors on both the cardiovascular and respiratory system while noting that the true danger in prolonged wear of the suits is the thermal affect.  Temperature increases within the suits can cause a dangerous spike in the deep body temperature of the wearer resulting in loss of dexterity, cognitive thought and degradation of motor skills.

"When you're in that suit, everything is the heat, the air hitting your face," said Marine Cpl. Craig Antwine, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Emergency Management Technician.  "It all gets to you, you're trying to concentrate and you're growing more fatigued by the minute." Each competitor had their blood pressure, heart rate and internal temperature checked and recorded pre and post wear in order to ensure optimal safety precautions could be taken.

The Marine and Air Force Emergency Manger teams competed with not only each other but also a team of Bioenvironmental Engineers and one of Firefighters.  Though each team completed the responders test, overcoming the challenging conditions there could be only one winner, the 51st Civil Engineer Firefighters.  Tech. Sgt. Commie Hobbs, Senior Airmen Robert Gauthier, Matthew Whelan and Cody Cobb represented their squadron and brought home the coveted trophy of the day.

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