While serving in the American military, there aren’t many three words phrases that will instill a more instant sense of dread than, “GAS! GAS! GAS!” If you’re in training, it means rushing to don your hot, miserable MOPP gear in time to do whatever fresh hell your leadership has planned for you under the guise of training for combat operations in an environment contaminated by a nuclear, chemical or biological agent.
If you’re in country when the announcement comes, it’s even worse, as you rush to done your hot, miserable MOPP gear in time to survive whatever fresh hell the enemy has lobbed at you.
MOPP Gear, which is an acronym for Mission Oriented Protective Posture Gear, includes a protective over-garment (often actually two separate pieces: a coat and trousers), a mask with respirator, a helmet (kevlar) cover, gloves and usually a few additional odds and ends like detection equipment, decontamination kits, and antidotes for some common chemical hazards. The suits, in effect, are intended to keep America’s war fighters operational even in environments where internationally banned area denial weapons have been employed, and depending on the hazard, can keep someone relatively safe from contamination for around 24 hours.
It’s important to note, however, that MOPP gear cannot and will not protect a service member from exposure to high energy, highly penetrating ionizing radiation such as would occur after a nuclear blast. The only way for America’s service members to survive that sort of radioactive bombardment, more often than not, is to high tail it out of the area.
Despite being banned by the United Nations, some countries still employ chemical and biological weapons as a part of their formal military infrastructure. Although they have repeatedly denied it, Syria has been accused of using chemical weapons against rebels and even civilians living in rebel controlled territory during their ongoing civil conflict, and according to South Korean intelligence, Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime may possess the largest stockpile of chemical and biological weapons anywhere on the planet. North Korea was implicated in the assassination of Kim Jong Un’s elder half-brother Kim Jong Nam using a banned chemical agent last year, which seems to support that claim.
As a result, most Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen need only to practice donning the equipment and going about their day, but other, more complex procedures need to be completed too.
In this video shared by Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, home to 27th Special Operations Wing, members of the base’s 12th Aircraft Maintenance Unit can be seen assembling an MQ-9 Reaper Drone while wearing full MOPP gear, approximating what it might be like if called upon to field the autonomous aircraft in a combat zone like Syria or North Korea following a chemical or biological attack.
Even without MOPP gear on, this assembly looks like a daunting process, but for anyone that’s ever tried to complete simple tasks through the lens of your MOPP mask, this sped up video is even more impressive.
Ever wondered what it looks like to assemble an MQ9? How about assembling one wearing MOPP gear? Members of the 12th Aircraft Maintenance Unit performed an exercise assembling an MQ9 over a set time frame, but for the first time in MOPP gear! pic.twitter.com/ryQXhc4jxj
— Cannon AFB (@CannonAFB_) February 13, 2018
Image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
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