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Aircrew Decon: AMC Total Force Airmen train in Toxic Arch

  • Published
  • By Chris Bishop

Air Mobility Command is removing toxicity the right way during Exercise Toxic Arch here, June 10-13.

AMC hosted the Air Force’s training for 2024, which took place at the 375th Air Mobility Wing’s Cantonment Training Area. Follow-on training for the AFE career field helps the Airmen develop a mission ready mindset.

Toxic Arch brought 20 Aircrew Flight Equipment (AFE) Airmen from across AMC’s Total Force to practice decontaminating aircrew from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear toxic hazards. The Air Force accomplishes this through annual training referred to as “toxic events.”

The Aircrew Contamination Control Area and the Aircrew Contamination Control Station (ACCA/ACCS) training that Toxic Arch covered involves initial entry of aircrew, gross decontamination, gear removal, undergarment decontamination, detailed decontamination, medical check, final rinse, donning clean gear, and an exit briefing.

“Learning the ACCA/ACCS process is hugely important to our career field because our priority is to take care of aircrew,” said Master Sgt. Teneil Roman, an instructor from the 436th Training Squadron (TRS) at Dyess AFB, Texas. “With real life threats going on, it’s super important that they understand how these processes work, why they’re effective, and how to execute them properly.”

According to Roman, ACCA/ACCS is just one of five courses the 436th TRS teaches AFE Airmen. Each year, instructors travel for toxic events such as this one.

“The benefits of having instructors come out to the actual field, and Toxic Arch, is that we get to be in a different environment,” said Roman. “The participants get more out of it because it’s like a live training environment, what they would actually see in the field versus at the schoolhouse where we have them do [ACCA/ACCS] lines in a parking lot.”

Staff Sgt. Carlissa Custer, an AFE Technician from the 305th Operations Support Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, said AFE Airmen traveling to train, forces them to work with new people in the career field, exposing them to scenarios that are likely to happen in a real-world circumstance.

In addition to learning about ACCA/ACCS lines, Airmen attending Toxic Arch are expected to bring their experiences home to their units and teach their peers.

“Just because they aren’t here practicing, we’re still able to pass along the information and give them the same benefit that we’re receiving here at Scott,” said Custer.

Roman emphasized the importance of attending Toxic Arch.

“I never got to participate in a toxic trip before,” said Roman. “When I was in the field, I had several coworkers go and participate in toxic trips and they did bring back their knowledge. Typically, this is a train the trainer course, they send one person to get qualified and then that qualified person teaches everyone else.”

Toxic Arch is also designed to throw new scenarios at the trainees, forcing them to get creative and think outside of the box.

“Another scenario here is that if we come in contact with a crew member that doesn’t speak the same language as us, we are able to practice working with them,” said Custer. “We are able to practice showing them pictograms and working through those potential setbacks we might face.”

Airman 1st Class Adam Gaines, an airman from the 437thOSS at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, says that a major learning curve is conducting ACCA lines in the absence of equipment they’re used to. Along with these technical challenges, the elements pose their own challenge.

“It gets hot out in the [Mission Oriented Protective Posture] gear,” said Gaines. “The weather’s been pretty hot out here, it makes everything easier if you just calm down and work together to get the aircrew processed.”

Custer affirms the benefits Toxic Arch provides for AFE Airmen.

“It forces us to work on communication and set us up for any potential scenarios that we could be in,” she said. “Practice how you play.”