AFSOC hosts aircrew chemical decontamination exercise

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Air Commandos hosted June 6-10 here an Air Force-level aircrew decontamination exercise.

Air Force Special Operations Command’s operations directorate ran a realistic, scenario-based, training program for 16 aircrew flight equipment (AFE) Airmen from eight southern United States bases. They rehearsed the actions and techniques of protecting aircrews from incapacitating contamination when operating in a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) combat environment.

“Our purpose was to exercise the capabilities of the AFE 9ALCW unit type code (UTC), and also to provide training for folks who have either never seen the decontamination process, or have not seen it in a considerable amount of time,” said Chief Master Sgt. Dale Lawrence, AFSOC AFE branch chief.

This deployment UTC – usually with 19 AFE specialists -- is used for aircrew chemical defense decontamination operations, to include setting up a contamination control area and processing aircrews through it. The exercise here provided training for the individuals on the equipment and procedures as if they are operating from a forward operating location.

The assembled participants came from Air Education and Training Command, Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command and AFSOC.

“(They) pulled people from throughout the Air Force to test, because that’s how it would be in the real world,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Smith, AFE instructor with the 436th Training Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. “Aircrew members have specialized equipment that needs extra care – like their helmets and G-suits. We need people trained on how to decon it, so it doesn’t get broken.”

At the peak of the exercise, as a final exam on the fourth day, the AFE Airmen donned chemical warfare ensembles and assisted aircrews through a full-scale contamination control area set up in the Hurlburt Field Permanent Exercise Facility.

“The training was absolutely effective,” Lawrence said. “The team had to overcome multiple hurdles -- such as stressing the processing line, night time ops, multiple scenario injects -- and were able to do so without incident.”

This is the first of two Air Staff-funded exercises planned for fiscal year 2016, according to a memo from Col. Farley Abdeen, Total Force Aircrew Management Integration Division chief in the Headquarters Air Force Operations Directorate. A third exercise by U.S. Air Forces in Europe is projected for later this year.

(Staff Sgt. Melanie Holochwost, AFSOC Public Affairs, contributed to this article)