|Specialist "Hutch" Hutchinson|
As I mentioned, back in 1986, when I was a young Private First Class stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, the US was still in the Cold War with the USSR and the Arms Race was in full throttle with everyone stockpiling atomic, nuclear and other weapons.
To shield us from Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) threats, every Soldier was issued a protective mask (gas mask) and special clothing - which back then was called MOPP gear (Mission-Oriented Protective Posture).
You may have seen pictures or videos from Desert Storm of Soldiers wearing gasmasks with black Mickey Mouse gloves and funny looking bulky clothing that made them look they were wearing a Hollywood special effects fat suit - that's MOPP gear.
MOPP gear has different levels from "Ready" to Level 4 depending on the threat - from: have your stuff ready; to: big mushroom cloud on the horizon.
As you might imagine, wearing MOPP gear is not something Soldiers looked forward to but in the Army you need to ensure you know how to wear and use your equipment - train how you fight.
One of the things every Soldier still does during Basic Training is go through a gas chamber filled with tear gas (chlorobenzylidene-malononitrile, if you want to get technical ). The main purposes being to ensure you know how to put your mask on correctly as well as giving you an appreciation of how the equipment protects you; secondary purposes are to give you a taste of what it is like to be gassed and for the great amusement of Drill Sergeants.
First, you go in with your gas mask on, then, your Drill Sergeant, who keeps his mask on, has you take yours off. It has been 29 years since I went through the gas chamber and I still remember like it was yesterday.
Today, NBC has evolved to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN - pronounced see-burn); the Soldiers who become trained specialists in this area are 74Ds.
Our unit's 74D is Specialist ("Hutch") Hutchinson. Married with two kids, SPC Hutchinson has been in the Army for about two years and this is his first deployment - with the Army that is; he is a former Marine who was deployed to Iraq as well as Djibouti (that's in Africa, in case you were wondering.)
He told me he enjoyed the esprit de corp of the Marines but likes the opportunities the Army offers; when he was in the Marines his job was much more combat-oriented than what he probably will experience as a CBRN Specialist.
As you might imagine, there is not, (thank goodness!), a great daily demand for CBRN services, so the 74Ds tend to have additional duties and provide support in other areas.
Aside from his CBRN duties, SPC Hutchinson also does whatever needs to be done - from picking-up the Soldiers' mail from the Mail Room, to overseeing headcount at the mess hall, to doing administrative tasks in the Orderly Room
Our Orderly Room, our unit, and the Army, in my opinion, is fortunate SPC Hutchinson is with us and no longer a Marine - ever since I first met him about a year ago, he has always impressed me as being a can-do Soldier with a positive attitude and great military bearing: Marines 0; Army 1.
S H O U T O U T S !
@ www.operationbuckeye.org and PVT Jacob L. of Columbus, OH: Thank you for the Care Package; the toiletries went to our Orderly Room so all the Soldiers in our unit will have access and the treats were shared amongst our Soldiers.
@ Sharon S. of Westlake, OH: I enjoyed your letter and story about Perch-flavored ice cream in Russia; thank you for your ongoing support.
@ www.operationbuckeye.org and David, Mary, and Daniel J. of Columbus, OH: I smiled when I saw Daniel's signature on the card; thank you for the treats - I gave them to Soldiers on Guard Duty.
@ Kay H. of Huntington, Beach CA: Your starfish postcard brought a bit of the beach to the desert; thank you for writing.
@ www.operationbuckeye.org and Jack and Nicole S. of New Albany, OH: Thank you for the great Care Package - the Pringles in your Care Package were greatly appreciated by my fellow Soldiers and I really like the "energy" gum.
@ Helen C. and the Virgin Angels: Thank you for your letters and the eclectic Care Packages - I really enjoy the colorful stationary and, must admit, I am kinda selfish about your packages and keep most of the items for myself. I look forward to meeting you all in person next June-ish.
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