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Members of the maintenance air wing train on decontaminating a C-130 aircraft during an Operational Readiness Exercise on Yokota Air Base, Japan, on Thursday.
Members of the maintenance air wing train on decontaminating a C-130 aircraft during an Operational Readiness Exercise on Yokota Air Base, Japan, on Thursday. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Never let it be said a little rain discourages U.S. airmen with a readiness exercise to move through — at least not Thursday at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

Steady, cold, drenching rain that day didn’t even slow the 374th Airlift Wing as it continued this week’s Operational Readiness Exercise, training to practice for actual missions.

Airmen responded to scenarios including countering a chemical attack and decontaminating an aircraft while wearing protective gear, and staging materials in preparation for deployment.

“This ORE is a good chance to show off our safety awareness,” said Capt. Arthur Grafton, chief of the 374th Maintenance Group exercise evaluation team. The approximately 20 airmen on the evaluation team have spent the past week assessing Maintenance Group servicemembers as they move through the drills.

Exercises like this let units evaluate how they’d carry out their mission in a realistic combat situation, said Capt. Warren Comer, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesman.

For instance, among several scenarios held during the ORE was a hypothetical chemical attack on Yokota Air Base.

Airmen had to conduct a variety of tasks while wearing full chemical gear. With Grafton and his team watching, members of the 374th Maintenance Squadron had to assess and decontaminate a C-130 airplane that had been exposed to a “chemical agent.”

As the decontamination team arrived on site, rain poured down and a cold wind blew across the flight line. The exercise continued.

“Exercises like these allow you to see how difficult it is to work in a combat environment,” said Senior Airman Brandi Tranter, a C-130 engine mechanic for the 374th Maintenance Squadron, who took part in the drill.

Grafton added that practicing as if under chemical attack teaches airmen that “no matter what your environment, you can always rely on your technical data and regulations.”

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