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MacDill’s Individual Protective Equipment techs: the unsung heroes of the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Scott Warner
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

When it’s time to suit up, Team MacDill looks to the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) Individual Protective Equipment (IPE) section for most of their equipment needs.

The IPE section issues equipment for combat arms qualifications as well as chemical, biological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) equipment for training and deployments. The items issued to service members ranges from cold weather clothing to full-body chemical warfare gear. Additionally, they also issue body armor, M-4 assault rifles and M-9 pistols if the member is deploying to a dangerous environment.

“We issue roughly 15,600 assets yearly for large-scale readiness exercises, nuclear operational readiness exercises and part task trainer exercises for the wing,” said Tech. Sgt. Allen Smith, the 6th LRS noncommissioned officer of IPE.

According to Smith, IPE houses more than 66,000 total assets valued at approximately $6 million. Among those assets are more than 1,000 M-9 pistols, M-4 and M-16 assault rifles.

For all these equipment assets, a team of nine is charged with issuing mobility gear to the 6th Air Refueling Wing as well as two combatant commands located on MacDill, AFB.

“IPE is extremely important because military service members need our gear to complete their necessary training to be able to support themselves while deployed,” said Senior Airman Paige Carver, a 6th LRS IPE technician. “We ultimately support our base’s biggest priority, which is the nuclear mission readiness training.”

Some of the tasks that IPE technicians complete daily include taking accountability of mobility gear issued to customers, inventory mobility assets, sending old gear to be cleaned, checking leaks as well as cleaning gas masks, maintaining the weapons accounts/vault as well as offering courtesy bag storage for pending flyers.

These technicians also properly dispose of equipment that is no longer serviceable.

“My favorite aspect of working in IPE is the face-time we have with customers and being able to establish that relationship,” said Carver. “It is interesting to meet people from all different career fields and talk about their jobs.”

Every section is one cog in the giant machine that is the U.S. Air Force. When one doesn’t operate correctly, the whole machine suffers as a whole.

“The most rewarding aspect [of my job] is that our gear is potentially saving lives,” said Carver.

While this type of equipment isn’t used every day, Airmen can rest assured that the gear issued by the 6th LRE IPE section is fully operational whenever it might be needed.

“What I like most about my job is the fact that I can see the impact that my team has on the mission,” said Smith. “Not all Airmen in the 6th LRS get to see the big picture of supply and what we support, but with IPE, you see that. You see what you’re doing put to work.”