American Forces Press Service

U.S. Noncombatants in South Korea to Receive Protective Masks


  By Linda D. Kozaryn
 American Forces Press Service

 WASHINGTON -- U.S. Forces Korea has taken another step to 
 protect military families and other DoD-affiliated non-
 combatants from the threat of weapons of mass destruction. 
 Command officials announced Oct. 29 that DoD had approved 
 its request to issue protective masks to command and non-
 command sponsored military family members in South Korea. 
 Masks also will be issued to all DoD civilians not 
 designated as emergency essential and their families and to 
 all dependents of emergency-essential employees. Mission-
 essential DoD civilians and active duty service members 
 already are issued protective masks and clothing.
 "After considerable thought and planning, the command is 
 ready to make a prudent addition to our force and family 
 protection measures," said Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Petrosky, 
 the command's chief of staff. "In the next few weeks, we 
 will begin to issue protective masks to family members, and 
 noncombatants associated with the Department of Defense."
 Petrosky, who is also the commander U.S. Eighth Army, told 
  American Forces Korea Network the command has been planning 
this addition to the Force and Family Protection Program 
 for more than a year. "It is not in response to any 
 increased threat in Korea," he said. "Our program is 
 another step in our ongoing mission to protect our forces 
 and to protect their families.
 "In this uncertain world," Petrosky continued, "such 
 prudent defensive measures just make sense. This new effort 
 serves the same primary purpose all our force and family 
 protection measures do -- to make all members of the USFK 
 family as safe as possible." 
 Personnel assigned on temporary duty to U.S. Forces Korea 
 will either bring their own masks or be issued one by their 
 sponsoring unit or activity, according to DoD officials. 
 Contractors and technical representatives are covered under 
 a separate DoD force protection program.
 Beginning in mid-November, U.S. Forces Korea will issue 
 M17A2 masks and three types of commercially designed hoods 
 for infants (birth through age 3), children (4-10) and 
 hard-to-fit adults. The masks will become part of each 
 family's noncombatant evacuation kit. 
 American service members -- including those in Korea -- 
 formerly used the M17A2 mask, which has now been replaced 
 by the M24. Command officials said the M17A2 mask is a 
 reliable system. It is designed to provide protection 
 against the widest range of potential chemical and 
 biological agents. The command will conduct training to 
 ensure sponsors know how to use the equipment.
 The masks and hoods will protect noncombatants in the event 
 of a chemical attack and will give authorities time to move 
 them into safe areas, Army Col. David Apt, U.S. Forces 
 Korea spokesman, told Pacific Stars and Stripes. 
 DoD officials are currently assessing whether or not masks 
 should be issued to family members in other overseas 
 locations to augment existing force protection plans. 
 Since the 1996 terrorist attack on U.S. forces at Khobar 
 Towers in Saudi Arabia, the military has taken numerous 
 steps to enhance force protection. Previous steps taken in 
 South Korea to enhance noncombatants' safety include 
 installing barricades, widening roads and improving 
 installation access control, Apt noted.