Readiness requires equipment

EGLIN AIR FORCE Base, Fla. -- Deployments, large-scale exercises and readiness training sessions require extensive planning and attention to details. From the number of troops to the timeline for different tasks to be accomplished, Airmen often have a long list of pre-deployment or pre-exercise planning to complete before they can claim readiness.

One of the required pieces in the readiness puzzle is Individual Protective Equipment. IPE provides protective gear that saves Airmen’s lives. From chemical protection gear and gas masks to body armor and firearms, IPE makes sure every Airman is properly equipped for any circumstances they may encounter at home and down range.

“IPE’s mission is to ensure we provide deployment gear to individuals prior to deploying as well as provide training gear needed for training,” said Staff Sgt. Lara Christiansen, 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron element floor supervisor.

 The element’s warehouse handles approximately 48,000 assets to include chemical warfare defense equipment individual body armor vests, helmets and weapons that are signed out to individuals deploying and attending training. IPE assists approximately 3,500 Airmen and service members annually.

 The unit’s personnel inventories all of the assets and leak tests the gas masks locally. The masks are also on a rotating schedule to be sent to Albany, Georgia for more testing to ensure integrity. The combat arms section performs gauge and serviceability checks on all weapons during annual and semi-annual weapons inventories.

 “Inventory and test ensures our balances are correct and we are issuing out serviceable assets to our folks heading down range, thus ensuring a successful deployment,” said Christiansen.

 When a service member is deploying or training, they can expect to pick up two to three bags of gear from IPE. “A” bag includes chemical gear- pants, coat, boots, gloves, and gas mask. “B” bag contains personal protection gear: vest plates, helmet, web belt, canteen, suspenders. “C” bag is only needed for cold weather training and deployments- parka, winter boots, gloves, sleeping bags. Each bag is valued around $2,000 worth of equipment. For example, an Airman heading to Korea in December could be issued all three bags.

 “You want to make sure your service members are safe when they go down range,” said Christiansen. “That’s why evaluation of the gear for serviceability is so important. It is also very important to review the checklist with the person to make sure you have everything.”

 While the majority of the gear is for real world situations, there is also training gear used to teach proper use for in-theater needs. This is the gear that ensures troops know how to put their mask on in eight seconds and know how to put it on accurately.

 “When you are over there, you only get one chance,” said Tech Sgt. Cindria Mizell, 96th LRS. “You have to know how to put it on and put it on fast.”

 Both Mizell and Christiansen have deployed and experienced the value of their job from the perspective of someone in the field or training for combat. Speaking about her deployment, Mizell described her increased level of security and confidence that she attributed to the protective gear she took with her.

 “We were always walking around in full gear,” said Mizell. “You had to always have everything on because we were downtown and there were local nationals all around. Without it, I would have felt very unsafe, but with it I felt protected.” 

 So matter what unit an Airman is with or where they may go, to complete the readiness puzzle requires a stop at Individual Protective Equipment to ensure they have the pieces they need.