HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.-- The 635th Materiel Maintenance Squadron hosted an event led by the Air Force Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Defense Systems Branch from the Air Force Life Cycle Management, Agile Combat Support Directorate with representatives from Air Combat Command, Air Force Civil Engineer Center, Air Force Special Operations Command, Pacific Air Forces, United States Air Forces in Europe, Airstaff, and the Joint Program Executive Office for CBRN Defenses’ Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection program office to conduct a Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection Fielding and Sustainment Assessment, April 12-20, 2021.
The latest edition of Air Force protective shelters built to protect personnel against Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear threats, is a priority of the Air Force - and more importantly, critical to keeping Airmen safe. This assessment was the critical next step towards fielding updated capabilities to warfighters globally. It also allows the recipients of the shelters an opportunity to understand what they will receive prior to production and distribution throughout the Air Force.
“If a CBRN event is imminent and we need protection, these shelters will provide a toxic-free space for our warfighters,” said 1st Lt. Felecia Staggers, AF CBRN Defense Systems branch Protection Systems Program Manager. “Our goal here, is to design a Unit Type Code consisting of all equipment to operate the shelters. Once the Unit Type Code is built and captured in the Air Force system, commanders will have immediate access and order enough to protect the boots on the ground.”
Since this is the first time Air Force field users are erecting these particular shelters side by side, representatives from many different career fields and commands were essential to ensure all perspectives are acknowledged.
“We have so much representation here and that’s important because we need to talk about different aspects of what is required,” said Staggers. “We have different specialties and different levels of skill and leadership in the room just so we can get it right. The needs of one specific area may not necessarily be the needs of another one. We have to find a common ground to say okay, this UTC will have x y z, and it will meet everybody’s purpose.”
Chief Master Sgt. Jason Blair, Pacific Air Force Command emergency manager, echoed her statement.
“This is really valuable because we've got multiple commands that are interested in this type of protection for people,” said Blair. “I look at this from a very functional perspective, but there’s more that goes into it. There’s logistics like, how much electricity does it take? What kind of maintenance does it need for storage? These are things that go beyond just protecting people, which is the main objective, but we have to have all these areas of expertise in the room.”
With so many factors to consider, it was critical to choose a location with optimal conditions for evaluation.
“We chose Holloman because it is a center of excellence and it is home to the Basic Expeditionary Airfield Resources base,” said Staggers. “This base is equipped with the personnel, equipment, land, and everything that that we need to conduct this assessment. There's no other place in the Air Force that has this level of capability. This is also one of the more demanding environments we will have for collective protection. If we can do this here in New Mexico, we can do it in any of the other places in the Air Force.”
While the Air Force chose Holloman for its location qualities, the Airmen here mutually benefit by being the first to handle equipment that could be fully implemented in the future.
“Getting our eyes on this early and just getting some general knowledge is really helpful,” said Tech Sgt. Marshall Hess, 635th Materiel Maintenance Squadron contingency training supervisor. “Once it’s implemented as a UTC we’ll train on it. We’ll know these shelters in and out. It’ll become part of our day-to-day mission, and we’ll be ready to support whenever it’s needed.”
Team members hope the evaluation of this assessment will be complete in a few months. This accelerated change requires continuous collaboration that enhances the ability to look forward and work together to develop competencies and capabilities required to win in a high-end fight.