HAZWOPER class held at 120th AW

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson
  • 120th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office
The 120th Airlift Wing of the Montana Air National Guard conducted a Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) class on the base located at the Great Falls International Airport May 16-20.

Ten Airmen completed the 40 hour course and 26 attended the eight hour annual refresher training designed to teach the proper identification and cleanup of hazardous material spills.

State Environmental Officer Jerry DeVose said that since 2005 approximately 45 MTANG personnel have taken the class.

"These are the folks that handle the hazardous materials and handle the hazardous waste," DeVose said. "So we're continually building a pool of individuals that are able to go out and have the basic knowledge to go out and stop spills and clean up, which really is an asset to the wing in the event of a spill."

DeVose said an experienced instructor in hazardous material removal was contracted to teach the course. He said the instructor used the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), emergency response guides and detailed PowerPoint slides to help make the training interesting.

The end of the course included a practical exercise involving a simulated hazardous material spill. The students divided up hazardous material responsibilities and sent a team of two dressed in Level A fully-encapsulated protective suits complete with self-contained breathing apparatus into the facility containing the spilled materials.

The team quickly located the simulated spilled material, wrote down data found on chemical containers and reported the information back to the command center.

Several members of the group identified the simulated hazardous material and developed a plan to clean it up. 

The returning team then went through a decontamination line operated by their fellow students to remove any residual chemicals that may have made contact with their suits.

120th Airlift Wing Senior Airman Zachary Allen attended the 40 hour class. He said he enjoyed the hands-on exercise portion of the course.

"I was the safety officer, so I was the one doing the safety briefing for the entire team," Allen said. "I was making sure they knew what was going on with the contaminant and the hazards they were looking for."

Allen said he will be sharing the new information he received on hazardous material cleanup with his coworkers in the aircrew flight equipment section.

"I plan on using a lot of information that I learned and help others in the shop," Allen said. "We live here and in my mind, it is common sense. If we're taking care of it, it will take care of us."

DeVose says he makes a point to audit the 40 hour course each year to stay current on hazardous material identification and removal.

"It's very important, because if you don't use it all the time you are going to get a little rusty," DeVose said. "I watch the 40 hour presentation throughout the week and there's always new information in there that comes out, so I'm constantly learning as well."

DeVose said Air Force regulations require the 120th AW to have unit level and shop level environmental coordinators. This continuing education is valuable as these Airmen would most likely be the first responders to any hazardous material spill occurring on base.

"It's up to us as things change and technology changes," DeVose said. "It's up to the environmental office to train and to teach and to develop sound practices that won't affect the environment."