By Airman Jakob Ivanick, 152nd Airlift Wing
/ Published April 09, 2021
Airmen from the 152nd Airlift Wing at Nevada Air National Guard Base, Reno, Nevada, participate in the Operation Chemical Blackjack exercise Mar. 6, 2021. The exercise emulated the entire process of responding to a chemical emergency.
The 152nd Airlift Wing held a training exercise, Operation Chemical Blackjack, March 5 to 7, 2021, at the Nevada Air National Guard base, Reno, Nev. The 72-hour exercise was designed to ensure the Nevada Air National Guard is properly prepared to protect, respond to, and recover from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.
“This exercise was developed to increase proficiency in wearing chemical protective over-garment; as well as providing Airmen an opportunity to accomplish mission essential tasks in a simulated chemically contaminated environment,” said Master Sgt. Timothy Hill from the emergency management section. He continued, “Maintaining this proficiency is essential in ensuring readiness, force survivability and mission continuation."
Those who participated in the exercise included a multitude of Air National Guardsmen from across the base.
“As inspectors general, it’s our job to ensure we are exercising all of our Airmen who may be required to answer the Nation’s call at any moment in time,” said Master Sgt. Christa Morter from the inspections section of IG. “Participation in this recurring exercise is essential in the IG’s ability to validate whether or not we’ve adequately trained and prepared our Airmen to survive and operate in a contested, degraded environment. This exercise has allowed Airmen to practice skills that aren't normally utilized during regularly scheduled drills but will be essential upon deployment.
A number of specific scenarios were played out during the exercise, but the general goal was to replicate protocol during a situation where an enemy has intent and capability of deploying CBRN weapons.
Hill said, “Honestly, it's not about how we did or how prepared we are, but identifying what can we do to build on our current level of proficiency.
There's always ways to become more capable at a job or task, after all practice makes perfect. The Operation Chemical Blackjack exercise is an excellent way for experienced Airmen to pass down knowledge to those who have not participated in this type of exercise.”
The exercise consisted of members from the 152nd Airlift Wing performing unique roles during the many training scenarios. Certain Airmen participated as active players in the scenarios, who would have an active role in the exercise, and others were tasked as evaluators, who would observe and provide feedback without participating in the scenarios themselves.
For some like Staff Sgt. Matthew Greiner of the 152nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office, this was his first time participating as the Public Affairs representative in the Emergency Operations Center.
“Getting the opportunity to work in the Emergency Operations Center gave me a whole new perspective,” Greiner said. “When you’re in your work center, you are sheltered from everything else going on around base. It was nice to see that different perspective. It helped me understand the role that public affairs plays in a more strategic light.”
Aiming to prepare the High Rollers to fight, survive, operate, and win in a highly contested and degraded chemical environment, the exercise was a great way to train Airmen and maintain the high standard that the Wing is known for.
Col. Jacob Hammons, the commander for the 152nd Airlift Wing said, “This exercise is integral to preparing for our Title 10 missions in contested environments,” he continued, “As we shift our focus to great power competition, it is more vital than ever that we have the basic skills to survive and operate in environments where our adversaries might utilize chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear threats.”
When the Airmen here will be required to put this practice into action is not known; however, what is known, is that they are ready with the necessary skills to complete the mission.