NAVY CREW TESTS NEW GAS MASKS

By Journalist Seaman Ryan Valverde, USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs

ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD (NNS) — The joint military Development Test Command (DTC) tested a newly-developed gas mask aboard this ship during Aug. 1-13, while steaming to and from Seattle.

“Eachl branch of the military is currently testing the Joint Service General Purpose Mask (JSGPM) to determine its effectiveness in the field,” said John Strang, a DTC staff member. When approved, the mask will replace the Navy’s current MCU-2P model. “This is the only ship in the Navy testing the masks,” he added. “Bonhomme Richard is very versatile. It deals with many different aspects of the battlefield, from the flight deck to the well deck.”

Twenty-nine Bonhomme Richard personnel from different departments of the ship carried the mask for eight hours each day and wore it for two days during the 13-day test period. Each kept a daily log noting the durability, comfort and their ability to perform duties while wearing it. “We wanted to test the mask in their working environment to ensure that the war fighter could still accomplish the mission with it,” Strang said.

“Along with the Navy, damage control gear also is constantly changing,” said Damage Controlman 1st Class Christopher Preston - one of a few qualified JSGPM instructors Navy-wide. “This test-run of the new mask will allow the actual deck plate runners a chance to give their input on equipment they will be using.”

Test participant Yeoman 3rd Class Jenny Hernandez said the mask would be a welcome change. “With the old mask, every time I would take it off, my hair would get tangled in it. The design of the skullcap on the new model makes it much more comfortable to wear and easier to take off.”

“It is great to be involved with something that could potentially change how the Navy battles a CBR attack,” Hospitalman Philip Keehn added. “I have been wearing the mask during sick call and around the ship.”

Storekeeper 2nd Class (AW) Kenneth King volunteered to do this testing because, “I thought it would be gratifying to know that this ship was the first to wear these masks and that we made a difference.”

Strang said Bonhomme Richard’s personnel were very motivated and interested through the entire test period. “We know wearing these masks and the accompanying gear can become inconvenient at times, but the participants made our jobs easier, and it says a lot about them and the ship as a whole.”

The Bonhomme Richard is currently in the Advanced Phase of its training cycle and is scheduled to deploy as the flagship for Expeditionary Strike Group 5.

The DTC team’s next test site was scheduled at Fort Campbell, Ky.