VMFA-251 stays combat ready

27 Nov 2009 | Lance Cpl. Courtney C. White

“Place your identification card on the deck and take five steps back,” shouted a guard to anyone who tried entering the building.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 continued training for deployment through annual antiterrorism force protection exercise in conjunction with Basic Operating Standards aboard the Air Station, Nov. 19.

The exercise prepares the unit for situations involving terrorism and the BOS is an annually required training exercise in which the unit must accomplish mission essential tasks while wearing mission oriented protective posture gear.

“The commanding officer realized that combining both exercises not only fulfills annual requirements but also makes the situation more realistic,” said Maj. Zach Curry, the operations officer with VMFA-251.

The training exercise consisted of four different phases in which the Marines had to go through the different levels of MOPP gear while posting security, searching vehicles and continuing their daily mission.

There are four levels of MOPP. Each level requires the Marines to wear a certain amount of protective gear. Level one consists of wearing a protective jacket and overalls, level two consists of a protective jacket and overalls over the flak jacket and boots; level three consists of a protective jacket and overalls; over the flak jacket, boots and a gas mask; and level four consists of wearing all MOPP gear, which is the protective jacket and overalls, boots, gas masks and rubber gloves.

“Being able to report their post, search a vehicle and deal with stress help the Marines to prepare for a real-life situation and prevent deaths by keeping away from complacency,” said Sgt. Micah Smith, an intelligence analyst with VMFA-251.

During the exercise, Marine Aircraft Group 31’s Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear unit evaluated VMFA-251’s ability to operate in a contaminated environment and implement the tactics, techniques and procedures developed in support of this training and CBRN operations.

“The Marines treated the situation as if they were real life scenarios,” said Cpl. Wilfrido Camacho, an embark noncommissioned officer with VMFA-251. “Everyone moved fast, worked together and rushed to put their gas masks on when the sign was given.”

Throughout the training, the participants had to handle several missions including an aircraft being hit with a biological weapon, decontaminating and recovering the aircraft so the pilots could continue with their mission to deliver supplies for Marines and the guards detained a simulated aggressor.

This is the first time the Air Station conducted exercises involving aircraft flying in and being involved in training operations, according to Sgt. Jason Snyder, a CBRN chief instructor.

“It was a lot harder to fly the aircraft with the extra gear,” said Capt. Tyler Robertson, the administrative officer-in-charge with VMFA-251. “It was challenging because of how hot it was with all of the gear on, limited visibility and restrictions on being able to move.”

The ultimate mission  during this training is to successfully restore operations in the event of a terrorist and CBRN attack and that the pilots were able to safely fly the F/A-18 Hornets while wearing MOPP gear.

“This hands-on training is much better than watching a slide show that everyone struggles to stay awake through,” Smith said. “This training prepares us for deployments and ultimately can save our lives.”