M50, a breath of fresh air

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Andrea F. Liechti
  • 115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The Airman adjusts his gas mask, pulling the bottom straps of his mask to get a tight seal. Once his mask is donned, he gives the go-ahead to the fit-test monitor and follows the commands she gives. He takes normal breaths, breathes deeply, moves his head from shoulder to shoulder, up and down, and finishes the exercises with chin rotations. A machine measuring the particles in the outside air compared to those inside the mask shows the monitor the Airman's gas mask has a proper seal.


More than 100 Airmen successfully passed their gas mask fit tests at the Credit Union building on Truax Field on April 6-7 as part of the military's transition to a single joint-force gas mask.


"Airmen need to attend gas mask training for the M50 before they can get tested," said Master Sgt. Jeff Reese, 115th Medical Group bioenvironmental engineering non-commissioned officer in charge. "There are two reasons we do the testing. First, so the individual has a comfort level with the mask should he or she need to deploy with it. Second, so we know there aren't any leaks in the mask. It's important for us to know everyone has a serviceable mask."


Approximately 1200 Airmen at the 115th Fighter Wing will need to be tested as they were all recently issued the M50 gas masks.


"In the past, every service had their own mask, but now the M50 is the joint service general purpose mask for all DOD personnel," said Senior Master Sgt. Richard Wizner, 115th Fighter Wing emergency manager.


According to Reese and Wizner, there are many advantages to the M50 gas masks. They are lighter in weight, have better breathability and have two filters instead of one, making it easier to switch out filters during training exercises and real-world scenarios.


Fit-test monitors, trained by the bioenvironmental engineering team, were in charge of testing the gas-masks to ensure every Airman achieved a good seal. Adjustments were made and gas masks exchanged to make sure the Airmen had serviceable masks.


Bioenvironmental Engineering Technician Lucas Mathe, who will be attending basic training this month, had the opportunity to be a fit-test monitor.


"This is what I'll be doing," Mathe said. "It has given me insight to what tech school will be like."


In addition to Mathe, Airmen across the base have been trained as fit-test monitors to ensure all Airmen have the chance to get tested prior to the operational readiness exercise scheduled for August.


Testing will take place again at the Credit Union building May 4-5.  Airmen can contact their unit deployment managers or fit-test monitors to schedule their testing.