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193rd Special Operations Airmen conduct AERP training

193rd Special Operations Squadron conducts in-flight Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection training.

U.S. Airmen from the 193rd Special Operations Squadron, prepare to board an EC-130J Commando Solo aircraft Dec. 2, 2017, at 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pennsylvania. The 193rd SOS Airmen completed an in-flight training exercise while wearing the Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection system, simulating how the aircrew would have to operate in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defense scenario. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

193rd Special Operations Squadron conducts in-flight Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection training.

U.S. Airmen from the 193rd Special Operations Squadron, don their Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection systems Dec. 2, 2017, at 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pennsylvania. The 193rd SOS Airmen simulated a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defense scenario as they completed in-flight training while wearing the AERP protective equipment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

193rd Special Operations Squadron conducts in-flight Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection training.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Kantner, right, an aircrew flight equipment technician with the 193rd Special Operations Squadron, connects the blower assembly of the Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection system to the inside of a EC-130J Commando Solo as Capt. Chad Gontkovic, a combat system officer with the 193rd SOS, observes Dec. 1, 2017, at 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pennsylvania. The 193rd SOS Airmen completed two days of AERP familiarization and training, including in-flight training while wearing the protective equipment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

193rd Special Operations Squadron conducts in-flight Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection training.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kris Post, a pilot with the 193rd Special Operations Squadron, assists 1st Lt. Ben Otterbein, a pilot with the 193rd SOS, with his Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection equipment Dec. 1, 2017, at 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pennsylvania. The 193rd SOS Airmen spent the first of two training days familiarizing themselves with the AERP protective equipment and ensuring its functionality. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

193rd Special Operations Squadron conducts in-flight Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection training.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jared Williams, a loadmaster with the 193rd Special Operations Squadron dons his first layer of gloves as he equips his Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection system Dec. 1, 2017, at 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pennsylvania. There are three layers of gloves Airmen must wear with the AERP protective equipment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

193rd Special Operations Squadron conducts in-flight Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection training.

U.S. Airmen from the 193rd Special Operations Squadron, conduct pre-flight inspections of their Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection equipment Dec. 1, 2017, at 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pennsylvania. The 193rd SOS Airmen completed two days of AERP familiarization and training, including in-flight training while wearing the protective equipment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

193rd Special Operations Squadron conducts in-flight Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection training.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Andrew Mossholder, an aircrew flight equipment technician with the 193rd Special Operations Squadron, applies an over-cape to Staff Sgt. Kyle Herman, an electronic communication system operator with the 193rd SOS, Dec. 2, 2017, at 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pennsylvania. The over-capes are part of the Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection system the aircrew don to avoid contamination to the inside of the aircraft during a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defense scenario. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

193rd Special Operations Squadron conducts in-flight Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection training.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Kantner, an aircrew flight equipment technician with the 193rd Special Operations Squadron, tests the seal of an Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection system on Senior Airman Nicholas Naylor, a loadmaster with the 193rd SOS, Dec. 1, 2017, at 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pennsylvania. Naylor and other 193rd SOS Airmen completed two days of AERP familiarization and training, including in-flight training while wearing the protective equipment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

193rd Special Operations Squadron conducts in-flight Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection training.

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Ben Otterbein, a pilot from the 193rd Special Operations Squadron, wears an Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection system while flying Dec. 2, 2017, at 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pennsylvania. Otterbein and other the 193rd SOS aircrew completed an in-flight training exercise while wearing the AERP protective equipment, simulating how the aircrew would have to operate in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defense scenario. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

193rd Special Operations Squadron conducts in-flight Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection training.
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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Adam Still, an electronic communication system operator with the 193rd Special Operations Squadron dons the mask portion of his Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection system Dec. 2, 2017, at 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pennsylvania. Still completed an in-flight training exercise while wearing the protective gear, simulating how the aircrew would have to operate in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defense situation. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

193rd Special Operations Squadron conducts in-flight Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection training.
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U.S. Airmen from the 193rd Special Operations Squadron, conduct in-flight training while wearing the Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection system Dec. 2, 2017, at 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pennsylvania. The 193rd SOS Airmen completed two days of AERP familiarization and training, including in-flight training while wearing the protective equipment. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

193rd Special Operations Squadron conducts in-flight Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection training.
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U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Andrew Mossholder, an aircrew flight equipment technician with the 193rd Special Operations Squadron, conducts a pre-flight inspection of Staff Sgt. Seth Fisher, an electronic communication system operator with the 193rd SOS, Dec. 2, 2017, at 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pennsylvania. The 193rd SOS Airmen completed an in-flight training exercise while wearing the Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection system, simulating how the aircrew would have to operate in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defense scenario. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Harp/Released)

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. -- U.S. Airmen from the 193rd Special Operations Squadron gather in the Aircrew Flight Equipment shop to don their Aircrew Eye Respiratory Protection systems. This is the first of two days that Airmen are training and familiarizing themselves with the chemical and biological protective gear.

The Airmen work together as they begin to sling the equipment over their shoulders, adjusting it so the blower assembly sits approximately above their right hip and the hose is snaked across the front of their body.

The fans on the blower assemblies are turned on to provide air flow as they began to don their masks. The Airmen assist each other as they pulled their hoods over and adjust the straps on the masks, ensuring they have a proper seal and are able to breathe.

They turn on the intercom devices that are built into the protection equipment, the devices amplify their voices to provide ground communications. There is a light rhythm of breathing as they continue to equip their gear.

Amongst the group, one Airman can’t seem to help himself. He begins to breathe deep and steadily into his mask, providing the room with an ominous, but familiar sound.

Whhooo…caahh...

Whhooo…caahh...

One can almost hear the infamous song for the Galactic Empire, “The Imperial March” begin to play as a few other Airmen laugh through their intercom system.

Whhooo…caahh…

Whhooo…caahh...

After a few more dramatic breaths, the Airman’s Darth Vader impression is over and they are back to the training at hand.

Aircrew members from the 193rd SOS completed AERP training and familiarization, including in-flight training while wearing the protective equipment, December 1-2.

The AERP system is a chemical and biological filter system designed for aircrew members, said Staff Sgt. Steven Kantner, an AFE technician with the 193rd SOS. The AERP system is composed of three major components, the mask, an intercom for communication and a blower assembly. The system is powered by battery as the aircrew maneuver to and from the aircraft, at which time it can be connected to the aircraft power and communication systems.
   
Airmen from the AFE shop help maintain the equipment and act as the subject matter experts, providing training to the aircrew.

The AERP training occurs yearly, but individual aircrew Airmen must only re-certify every four years, said Lt. Col. Kris Post, a pilot with the 193rd SOS and the aircraft commander during the training.

The aircrew carry the protective system on-board the aircraft with them in their deployment bag when the threat of chemical or biological weapons are present.

Ground training on the protective system was conducted in November through PowerPoint and demonstration, said Post. December began the operational side of training, allowing for a one-day familiarization for all the aircrew members, with execution of the in-flight training on the following day.

“It is important as Airmen that we’re trained and we know how to use this equipment when it’s needed,” said Post. “The bottom line is, you don’t want to be messing around with this equipment for the first time when it really counts.”

This year has been a focus of just getting familiar with the equipment, making sure the aircrew members get the training, and then it will be taken into more of an operational readiness inspection event, said Post.

With the training concluded, Post reflected on his observations from the training.

“It was outstanding training,” said Post. “Pretty much everybody involved in the support function to get us ready and prepared, whether it was the AFE, base operations, maintenance, everybody was on their A game. Aircrew was on their A game. We went out and we accomplished the training and it was a training complete.”

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