SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. --
The first thing that customers notice as they enter any Individual Protective Equipment warehouse is the smell of sanitizers and other cleaning materials that leave a faint stinging sensation on the tip of their nose.
It comes from the rows of shelves holding bins filled with M50 gas masks, carbon-lined jackets and pants, rubber gloves and boot covers as well as chemical-agent detection kits. The gear is worn under “battle rattle” which includes a helmet, web belt, body armor and armor plates, and all of it is to protect an Airman’s life while in combat environments.
MOPP, or Mission Oriented Protective Posture, gear is worn in toxic environments such a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack, and a small team of IPE personnel assigned to the 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron ensure anyone deploying to a war zone has the best gear to protect themselves.
That team is part of the375th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Material Management Flight and John Divine, the asset manager, explained, “The main purpose of IPE is war readiness.”
On any given day, IPE will sign out equipment to as many as 200 people for that purpose. Chuck Self, IPE specialist, said during the January wing mobility exercise, the staff practiced their ability to accommodate the needs of 250 people with the equipment they would need for their deployment.
“We are training for the real thing every time,” Divine said. “We are issuing what we would actually issue out if something really did happen. That way people can see what our true capabilities are.”
Divine said it is important to keep the equipment in good condition to prolong its shelf life, and unlike many bases which still hand wash their masks, Scott’s IPE team uses a specially made washer and dryer for their masks.
“Once the mask goes through the washer and dryer, my guys take it to the back and they polish off any water residue, or anything like that, and they put the mask back together. They put in the new parts and make sure everything is there. The mask is then leak tested before being put back into service. It’s practically like a new mask when you see it again.”
Tom Wiese, IPE specialist, echoed the importance of ensuring the gear is serviceable at all times.
“We are here to protect your body and your life,” he said.