01/11/18 — Base exercise readies airmen for real world scenarios

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Base exercise readies airmen for real world scenarios

By Joey Pitchford
Published in News on January 11, 2018 3:14 PM


An airman puts on gloves as he and other participants increase their MOPP gear to level 4.


Airmen guard a gate in chem gear during an exercise at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Thursday morning.


An airman uses the front of a truck to shield himself during a simulated shoot-out Thursday during an attack exercise.


A simulation round flies out of a gun during an exercise Thursday morning.


An armored Humvee provides assitance after the fence was breached during an exercise at Seymour Johnson Thusday.


The group takes off their chemical masks before their debriefing Thursday morning.

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base conducted a simulated base takeover Thursday, as members of the 4th Security Forces Squadron trained to respond to small arms and chemical weapons attacks in a mock firefight. 

The exercise began in the morning, starting around 4 a.m. A pair of airmen in body armor and protective clothing stood at a gate near the base's small arms range, equipped with rifles loaded with blank rounds, as well as gas masks. 

Around 10 a.m., an alarm sounded from out in the distance, and the airmen strapped on their masks and pulled hoods tightly over them, which they cinched with drawstrings. They pulled on gloves and tightly taped their sleeves, to make sure that no chemical agent could touch exposed skin. 

Robert Kerns, with SJAFB public affairs, said that -- in the exercise scenario -- there are sensors which detect the release of dangerous chemicals. In the event of a real chemical attack, airmen would use special strips of paper designed to change color depending on the chemicals they were exposed to, which would then help security forces respond more specifically. 

"The idea behind a chemical attack is to kill everyone in an area, and then you go in and clean it up and take over that area," he said. "It's awful, but that's how it works. We're trying to make ourselves impervious to that kind of attack."

The next phase of the exercise began around 11 a.m. Members of security forces dressed in civilian clothes hid in a wooded area across from where the training was taking place, armed with rifles of their own. As the "bad guys" in the scenario, they fired blank rounds and set off fake mortar explosions to simulate an attack on the base, to which the security forces members returned fire with their own rifles. 

As the firefight progressed, Staff Sgt. Darrell Bowers, one of the officers overseeing the exercise, walked up to some of the airmen and tapped them on the shoulder to let them know they were "dead." Those men laid down on their backs, and soon a pickup truck carrying reinforcements arrived, and the advancing attackers were quickly shot down. 

With the aid of an armored Humvee, several defenders pushed up to try and find a remaining shooter off to the right. At that moment, an attacker rushed the front gate, running past the defenders ---- and straight into a second line of defense, where she was stopped.

After the exercise concluded, Master Sgt. Adrienne Jenkins debriefed the group and offered some words of advice. 

"You can make mistakes here. If you're not thinking to the next scenario and pushing yourself to the limit and beyond, you're wrong," she said. "It's okay to make mistakes here, but when we deploy and we're in Iraq or Kuwait, that's not the place to learn."