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Officials explain MOPP driving policy

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- A sense of urgency is expected as Airmen here execute their mission during this week's local operational readiness exercise, but a sense safety is just as important, particularly when it comes to driving in MOPP gear.

Driving while wearing Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear poses potential hazards and therefore is not allowed unless Airmen are certified to do so, said Bert Stamm, 18th Wing ground safety manager.

Training is available for military members with a valid government driver's license to help mitigate some of the potential risk of driving while in MOPP gear.

"In order for someone to be trained on driving in MOPP gear, they must go through training with the MOPP [level] 4 gear on and be certified by the trainer," said Mr. Stamm. "By being properly trained you will learn of the limited vision a person has driving a vehicle...as well as the reduced speed limits around the flightline, equipment and aircraft."

Certification is a key part of the process.

"Once people are trained by an approved instructor, the trainee will be issued a certificate of competency," said Airman 1st Class Darnishia Webster, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron readiness flight. "Remember, if you aren't certified to drive in MOPP gear, you aren't allowed to, so don't do it."

Airmen already certified attest to the challenges of driving while wearing the full chemical ensemble--mask, suit, gloves and "overboots."

"The biggest difference is that you have to be more tentative when you drive," said Airman 1st Class Monica Luna, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle dispatch office. "You don't have as good of peripheral vision when you drive, and it does take a few extra seconds to slow down and stop with the chemical boots on."

Changes in traffic patterns during the exercise also pose challenges for drivers.

"With roads being closed on the flightline side of Douglas Avenue, new personnel will not know where entry points are and can cause accidents while trying to back up or turning around at the closed roads," said Mr. Stamm. "People also have reduced vision while wearing MOPP 4."

The 18th Wing commander and the inspector general have established procedures to address safety concerns and exercise rules related to driving and MOPP gear.

According to 18 WG IG instructions, exercise participants should, with a sense of urgency, dress to the appropriate MOPP level upon exiting their vehicle. They are considered in the play area once outside 10 feet from their vehicle.

Airmen should verify the current alarm condition and MOPP level upon entering their duty section and react accordingly. 18th WG members are not to drive privately-owned vehicles, whether certified or not, in MOPP 4.

The guidelines also cover how military members participating in the exercise should approach their vehicle and deal with MOPP conditions.

At the end of the duty day and within 10 feet of their vehicle, Airmen should remove their individual protective equipment and chemical gear. Airmen should not respond to attacks while driving their POV, but they are not considered non-players until out of uniform and wearing civilian clothes, according to the IG.