Supply: Support from the shadows
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- A dimly-lit warehouse lined with shelves and crates holds the necessities needed to sustain any chemical attack or harsh conditions possibly encountered by Airmen at Misawa Air Base.
Airmen assigned to the 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron individual protective equipment shop work daily ensuring Airmen are fully equipped to complete their job in any environment.
"Our mission is to provide all members with [both] bullet resistant gear and equipment to protect them from a chemical attack," said Airman 1st Class Bakari Tate, a 35 LRS IPE apprentice. "If our members deploy without the gear we provide them, they could be at risk for internal and external chemical exposure, potentially causing them severe harm or death."
On a weekly basis, Tate and his coworkers prepare for the influx of new Airmen arriving at Misawa AB. From their warehouse filled with mission-oriented protective posture gear, they have to assign everyone a training C-bag, otherwise known as a chemical defense bag.
"C-bags consist of a joint service lightweight integrated suit technology coat and trousers, flak vest, M50 gas mask, chemical boots, chemical gloves, glove inserts, web belt, canteen, helmet and suspenders," Tate said. "We also issue bullet resistant plates to security forces members."
Additionally, IPE Airmen also prepare A-bags, which consist of field gear, and B-bags with cold weather gear. They also issue weapons to deploying Airmen.
"A-bags contain sleeping bags with two ammo pouches and insect repellant," said Airman 1st Class Steven Hart, 35 LRS IPE journeyman. "The B-bag is used to provide cold weather gear for certain deployments. M16 assault rifles, M4 carbines and M9 pistols with the corresponding ammo are also issued."
Before each item is handed out, IPE also double-checks that all equipment is up-to-date and tested for quality.
"Items like the M50 gas mask have to be checked every two years for leaks," explained Tate. "The mask is placed on the joint service mask leakage tester to measure how many aerosol particles escape, determining its serviceability."
After the wave of incoming Airmen tailors off and the equipment is issued, Airmen leaving Misawa come to the shop to return their gear.
"Once gear is turned in, we have to wash everything," said Tate. "All J-LIST suits and sleeping bags have to be dry cleaned and gas masks are sanitized. After each person turns in a bag, it takes a week for every item inside to be cleaned."
When Tate first joined the Air Force, he wanted to make a difference and the thought of working in a warehouse all day didn't initially interest him. After being at Misawa, his perception of the job has reversed.
"When the duties of the job were first explained to me, it sounded very boring," Tate said. "After being here for more than a year, I have realized the overall impact we have on this base. No matter what, everybody has to receive this gear. Knowing I have a hand in protecting everyone from the commander down to the newest Airman makes me feel like I contribute to the overall mission. We truly are support from the shadows."