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20th CES infiltrates illicit lab in exercise

A U.S. Air Force 20th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter carries a simulated casualty away from a chemical and explosives lab during an exercise at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 2, 2019.

A U.S. Air Force 20th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter carries a simulated casualty away from a chemical and explosives lab during an exercise at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 2, 2019. Three flights assigned to the squadron came together to participate in an exercise that tested their interagency teamwork, communication and cohesiveness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)

U.S. Air Force firefighters assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron simulate decontaminating their wingman during an exercise at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 2, 2019.

U.S. Air Force firefighters assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron simulate decontaminating their wingman during an exercise at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 2, 2019. Exercise participants who entered a chemical and explosives lab went through the decontamination process after investigating the building. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)

U.S. Air Force emergency management technicians assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron suit up during an exercise at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 2, 2019.

U.S. Air Force emergency management technicians assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron suit up during an exercise at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 2, 2019. The technicians prepared themselves with protective gear such as gas masks and gloves and brought equipment into a simulated chemical and explosives lab to test the various substances found for identification. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Three flights assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron participated in a readiness exercise at the fire training grounds at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, May 2.

The Shaw fire department, emergency management and explosive ordnance disposal units responded to a call only to discover a simulated chemical and explosives lab.

“The overall goal is just getting into the walking phase and doing joint training together,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Clement, 20th CES emergency management craftsman. “It’s also good for our newer Airmen who just got out of tech school and don’t get this training on a day-to-day basis.”

Clement said this “walking phase” is planned to evolve into quarterly events and expand the training to involve more units.

The fire department arrived on scene first, assessing the situation and recovering a casualty. From there, EOD technicians were called out to the site and sent in a robot to determine the chemical contents of the lab.

Capt. Weston Thomsen, 20th CES EOD commander, said when it comes to hazards that can be present in explosives labs the sky is the limit. Although his technicians go to school for several months to learn all about the current dangers, adversaries are constantly working on finding new ways to hurt people.

An EOD responder entered the building and found trip wires and explosive devices which were removed prior to emergency management suiting up and testing the chemicals found.

“Teamwork in this situation is crucial because if you have one of your teams not doing their part the whole team fails,” said Thomsen.

Thomsen added that if the individual teams do not cooperate well at an actual scene it could result in people getting seriously injured or dying.

Many units hold exercises to increase teamwork and readiness, by introducing other flights into the equation new components arise that further complicate cohesiveness and communication. Through training together before emergencies arise, the 20th CES is preparing their Airmen to embrace the saying, “one team, one fight.”