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ATSO What?

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- The Ability to Survive and Operate in a hostile combat environment ensures our "Mission Ready" status and will be verified during the upcoming Certified Readiness Exercise. As we continue to hone our ability to execute the mission, it is very important to not forget the fundamentals of ATSO. Two ATSO Rodeos were conducted last summer to refresh our knowledge on skill sets required to keep us alive and complete the mission. Stations you rotated through in these Rodeos included: facility hardening (using sand bags) training, Individual Protective Equipment, handling of fire arms, litter carry, self-aid and buddy care, and administration of nerve agent antidotes.

While the last few OREs have highlighted our ability to properly harden our facilities and protect our equipment, we are still facing some challenges such as the proper wear of our IPE and delivering appropriate SABC to our fellow Gunfighters. IPE is needed to protect us from most Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive hazards and attacks. IPE, as you may recall, includes a protective mask, Chemical Protective Overgarment, overboots, gloves, glove inserts, field gear (e.g. web belt, canteen, helmet, body armor), decontamination kits, and M9 tape.

A few tips for surviving a CBRNE attack are: #1 a good seal of your mask is essential (within 9 seconds of the chemical attacks), #2 proper size/fit of CPO, overboots, gloves and glove inserts is a must, #3 confirm appropriate placement of M9 tape on CPO as shown in the Airman's Manual (AFPAM 10-100) to assist with detection of chemical contact and contamination, and #4 be a good Wingman! Perform a buddy check; if it looks wrong help make it right.

In the event an Airman goes down in a contaminated combat environment, remain calm and above all, do not remove your IPE unless directed to do so. If the individual show signs of nerve agent poisoning, place a mask on the person (if one is not already on), then administer his ATNAAs/CANA (medication pens) every 10 minutes, until symptoms subside, and never use your ATNAAs/CANA to treat another person. After performing spot decontamination on the Airman, it is time for SABC.

So what's the big deal with SABC any way and why does the U.S. Air Force want all Airmen to have this training? Two words...combat survivability! The two leading causes of death on the battlefield are uncontrolled bleeding and an inadequate airway. Colonel (Dr.) Brian Eastridge of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research found early interventions (i.e., within the first hour) like SABC increase the survival rate of wounded warriors in OIF and OEF.

During a recent ORE, I overheard "MEDICS!! Man down!" As I rushed over, spotting the Airman on the ground, I reflected on my SABC training and the importance for us all to respond and act quickly. "Medics!" should not be your first response, but instead use the training you've received. SABC starts with ABCDEs: establishing an open Airway, ensure Breathing, stop bleeding to support Circulation, prevent further Disability, and minimize further Exposure to adverse weather. The Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) contains supplies to increase your SABC capabilities. After these steps rapid transport of the ill/injured to the Deployed Medical Facility is paramount to prevent the loss of life, limb or eyesight, and to minimize further disability. Do not forget to spot decontaminate and administer antidotes if you or your fellow Airmen develop nerve agent poisoning. Furthermore, it is best to place those who are unconscious or cannot walk on a litter. As a reminder, the person closest to the wounded's right shoulder will direct all litter movements.

To recap, as we approach our last ORE prior to the CRE, please refer to the Airman's Manual to get a quick refresher on the proper wear of your IPE, the correct administration of SABC, ATNAAs/CANA, and the appropriate litters carry procedure in addition to other useful ATSO tools and checklists. Our mission success will weigh heavily on our ability to execute effective and timely ATSO in both the exercise training setting and in the real world combat environment. Let's finish strong and showcase our cumulative efforts over the past year...Gunfighters Bring it!