Blaze Arena: Airmen boost gas mask confidence with new chamber
By Airman 1st Class Jake Jacobsen, 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 04, 2019
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- The new way ahead for chemical biological, radiological and nuclear training at Columbus Air Force Base began March 28, as 17 Airmen donned their gas mask and stepped into the Blaze Arena to build their gas mask confidence.
Columbus AFB is now currently one of two Air Education and Training Command bases with a gas chamber, which helps enhance squadron readiness here.
“About a year ago, when the process started, I reached out to AETC and asked, ‘Hey does anyone have a gas chamber, Columbus Air Force Base would like to get one?,’” said 2nd Lt. Riley Quinlan, 14th Civil Engineer Squadron Emergency Management Flight commander. “The writing is on the wall to return to readiness and here at Columbus we decided to bring in the mass confidence training chamber to an already great CBRN training which would help us elevate and produce war fighters.”
Challenges of bringing this to Columbus AFB varied from the time aspect of it all to regulations regarding the gas because it is considered munition.
“A hurdle that we had was the facility itself and parameters that we had to fall within as far as safety,” said James Cross, 14th CES Installation Emergency Manager. “We can’t expose the whole base to this, so we had to find a location to put a permanent or semi-permanent structure away from crowded parts of the base.”
Cross said his team looked at the map and decided they would go to where old camp readiness was because there were no structures to impede construction. He said there was only a concrete pad and it was overgrown with brush, so all they had to do was clear some area.
Instructors who would be teaching the class had to be trained as well as go through a trial run in the chamber. They also led mock classes to build their confidence. The class is about one to two hours depending on the class size and how many instructors are available. After classroom time, students go out to Blaze Arena for hands-on training.
“In a training scenario safety is number one so we had to work with safety to ensure we took the proper steps so that when we expose someone to the gas there are no safety issues attached to that,” Cross said.
The requirement to stay current for CBRN training has recently changed from every three years to 18 months, so all Airmen have to go through unless there’s a medical condition that would prevent them. Anyone deploying has to be up to date with CBRN training and current through their deployment.
“Just like anything in the Air force, CBRN flows for change, so they decided to up the training for more emphasis on CBRN and overall readiness,” Quinlan said. “It is for that reason we decided the mask confidence chamber was the way to go.”
Emphasizing the theme of producing war fighters, the squadron decided to include a push up challenge to instigate warrior ethos. After Airmen remove their gas mask in the chamber, they are challenged to do as many push ups as they can before exiting the chamber.
“We figured if we pit people against each other that they would push others a whole lot harder than they normally would in the gas mask confidence chamber,” Quinlan said. “The previous record was 45 and on March 28, the record was broken with 61 pushups and again right after when someone did 75. The goal is to motivate and push each other in harsh conditions.”
The Blaze Arena is going to significantly increase the readiness for Columbus AFB and one of the tale tell signs of that is the enthusiasm behind it.
“Last week when we made the gas mask confidence chamber live to the base, we sent the word out to unit schedulers to ask who wanted to do CBRN training and every class became booked for months ahead,” Quinlan said. “That just speaks to Columbus AFB and the Airmen we have here, as well as the desire and warrior ethos we have inside of us.”
Blaze Arena improves training and readiness by providing an avenue for Airmen at Columbus AFB to improve their ability to fight.