1103rd MPs: Securing the perfect fit

Story and photos by Sgt. David Bolton, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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A Soldier from the 1103rd Military Police Detachment based in Brandenburg, Ky., waits to test his M41 gas mask at the Protective Assessment Test Station (PATS) exercise May 13, 2013 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The exercise was part of the 1103rd’s pre-mobilization training in service of Operation Enduring Freedom to Afghanistan. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. David Bolton)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. — Gas! Gas! Gas! Nine seconds. Locate the M41 gas mask. Eight seconds. Remove the mask from the hip pouch. Seven seconds. Press the mask firmly against the face. Six seconds. Pull the face straps over the head. Five seconds. Tighten the straps. Four seconds. Place hand over the air filter. Three seconds. Breathe in to pull the mask tight across the face. Two seconds. Exhale to clear the air in the mask. One second.

Successfully avoid contamination and potential injury.

For approximately 40 members of the Kentucky National Guard’s 1103rd Law and Order Detachment, nine seconds could mean the difference between life and death.

“God forbid a chemical attack happens,” said Sgt. Craig Probus, team leader with the 1103rd from Louisville, Ky. “We have nine seconds to don the masks and make sure it fits.”

As part of their mobilization training, the 1103rd completed the protective assessment test station exercise to prepare for possible chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive incidents.

During the training, soldiers disassembled their masks into component parts, reassembled the masks and ensured a proper seal around their face so that no outside air could leak into the mask.

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Sgt. Kelli Rust and Sgt. Craig Probus with the Kentucky National Guard’s 1103rd Military Police Detachment, ensure the proper seal of their M41 gas masks at the Protective Assessment Test Station (PATS) at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., May 13, 2013. The machines are used to indicate if any ambient air is leaking into the masks which could result in a failure to keep the Soldiers safe should a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or Explosive (CBRNE) incident occur. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. David Bolton)

Staff Sgt. William McKinney, squad leader and section chief with the 1103rd, said that the PATS test broke-down into five exercises: normal breathing, deep breathing, moving one’s head side-to-side, moving one’s head up and down, and chewing.

The movements of the head and face the soldiers were required to perform were meant to mimic the normal environment and wear that would be expected to occur if an attack were to happen. In addition to assuring the functionality of the gas masks, the training staff made sure that wearing the masks was comfortable.

“We want to make sure there is comfort in wearing the mask and to make sure that soldiers have some protection in a CBRNE environment,” said Isabella McCloud, lead instructor for the CBRNE/PATS course. “This mask is going to protect you.”

Although “gas, gas, gas” may be three of the most feared words a soldier may ever hear while on duty, knowing that they can put their faith in their protective equipment can keep their battle-minds ready and focused on the mission at hand.

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