IPE is where you want to be

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Omari Bernard
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
The Materiel Management Flight on Kadena Air Base is one of four flights that make up the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron, the largest LRS in the Air Force.

The Airmen of the flight are responsible for issuing both training and real-world individual protective equipment to Kadena personnel for exercises and deployments, keeping them safe and prepared no matter where they are around the globe.

"Our mission is to make sure that we provide clean and serviceable assets to the war fighter at a moment's notice," said Master Sgt. Joey Johnson, 18th LRS NCO in charge of IPE. "We never know when we will have to go and project air power around the world."

Individual protective equipment can include equipment ranging from sleeping bags and canteens to weapons such as the M-4 and M-9. The Airmen that make up the materiel management flight ensure each component is properly serviceable to ensure maximum effectiveness for those who use them.

"IPE is essential to the Air Force," Johnson said. "If I don't give you a serviceable M-50 gas mask how willing are you to put that mask on and think it will protect you? When you come here and we give you something as essential as a gas mask, you want to know that it will protect you if you have to use it."

However, gear, no matter how advanced, is useless without proper training. Just as the rest of the base frequently trains for real-world contingencies, the materiel management flight Airmen take the opportunity each week to maintain proficiency and inventory.

This training all comes to play on Wednesdays, the busiest day for the unit, where they service in-processing Airmen.

"We have what we call a one-stop-shop setup," said Tech. Sgt. Tylinthia Cummings, 18th LRS NCOIC of IPE customer service. "We have (the 18th Aeromedical Squadron's Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight) come over and perform gas mask fit tests for in-processing Airmen, and they are also able to get the rest of their IPE at the same time."

More than half of the items in the warehouse have an expiration date, so IPE technicians inspect the shelves for items that need to be replaced or thrown out. They also perform gas mask leak tests every two years to guarantee the masks are still operational and issue mission oriented protective posture gear.

"We make sure we issue the right gear to the right people at the right time," Cummings said. "We receive anywhere from 50 to 100 customers on regular days. However, during our busier days, like Wednesday, it can easily be from 100 to 200 people."

Kadena's central location in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region enables it to serve as a staging base for humanitarian and disaster-relief efforts throughout the western Pacific, and between maintaining and issuing equipment to Airmen and working with humanitarian efforts, the material management flight is constantly busy.

"We are few in numbers but we have a big mission," Johnson said. "When the doors are closed we are behind the scenes working. It doesn't stop when the last customer walks out the door. We still have to reconstitute, make sure the inventory is accurate and maintain safety standards. Our Airmen serve with pride, class and dignity every day."