Wing Holds ATSO Rodeo
By Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen, 108th Wing Public Affairs Office
/ Published April 11, 2014
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Rodeos are a test of skills: you know, barrel racing, cattle wrestling, bareback bronc riding - you get the picture.
ATSO (Ability to Survive and Operate) Rodeos are different: Here Airmen brush up on skills we don't use on a day-to-day basis.
"The importance of ATSO training is to teach our Airmen the skills needed to recover from and operate in a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) environment," said Master Sgt. Amanda L. Marotta, emergency management superintendent, 108th Civil Engineering Readiness and Emergency Management Flight . "The training teaches them to employ contamination avoidance measures, survivability tactics and mission continuation through a chemical wartime environment."
So during the February unit training assembly, 195 Airmen from the 108th Wing were given the opportunity to get reacquainted with those critical skills.
"I am hoping that this event will get me familiarized again with things I have forgotten over the years," said ATSO Rodeo participant Capt. Mike Yung. "You don't realize what you have forgotten until you come and relive it again."
"It's always difficult in the beginning because you are trying to get everybody back on the same page, because some people remember and some people don't; but it's expected," said Senior Airman Melissa C. Isidro, emergency management journeyman.
ATSO training is imperative for Airmen who are preparing for deployment. The training curriculums are written, tested, and evaluated through exercises and inspections. These skills make up the foundation necessary for all Airmen to function effectively in non-conventional hostile environments.
"My portion of the instruction on today's exercise is to review everybody on the M50 (gas) mask, their JSLIST (Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology) suits; make sure that they are ready for any type of CBRN wartime event," said Isidro.
The 108th Emergency Management team's block of instruction covered CBRN pre-attack and post-attack actions to include: M50 gas mask inspection, post attack reconnaissance team procedures, contamination avoidance, IPE (individual protective equipment), decontamination procedures and unexploded ordnance identification. Security Force Squadron members covered weapon's safety, disassembly, reassembly, nomenclature and weapon's turn in procedures, while medical personnel taught Self-Aid and Buddy Care.
Apart from the C-Bag filled with their CBRN gear, the 195 Airmen had to bring a positive attitude and be a good Wingman for their buddies.
"The importance of the buddy system has, and always will be apparent. In a chemically contaminated environment your vision, hearing and judgment can be impaired due to the stress of the situation and protective equipment being worn," said Marotta. "Using the buddy system helps each Airman function with a second set of eyes during training and real world events."
It's really simple, when you are in your IPE gear, you can't do everything by yourself. You must rely on your buddy to make sure you are all zipped up and the same applies to you helping your buddy, after all, your lives rely on each other.
It is also important for those who have done this before to guide the younger Airmen.
"The role each mentor/instructor played was to ensure safety throughout the training, and guided learning for each student using demonstration performance," said Marotta.
In the end, everyone's skills got polished, making the next ATSO Rodeo a little easier.
Yung summed it up this way: "A crash course of all the essential elements for survival after attack."