Training is a huge part of my job.  Huge…

Every year around the first weekend in April a bunch of us all get into a big van and travel over to the Hanford Nuclear Plant and participate in various hazardous materials classes.    It’s mainly geared for responders, but private industry goes as well.

As a female in the responder world I always have to make sure I don’t look like a dumbass.  No matter what anyone says, I feel like women have to be perfect, they have to try way harder in this type of field then men do.  I’m not complaining or trying to prove a point, it’s just a fact…it’s reality.  But sometimes, I look like a dumbass…

One year I got to put on a hazardous materials suit and pretend that I was decontaminating people that had been exposed to a chemical of some sort.  Before going to training I had gotten an expensive pedicure.  And to show it off I wore my flip flops to class that day.  So as I stood there in my flip flops with beautiful feet, the instructor handed me some boots and a hazmat suit.  I asked if I had to wear socks and they told me yes.  One of the guys in my class, who was slightly round, looked at me and said, “this is why women shouldn’t be here in this class”.  I just looked at him with nothing to say because…I looked like a dumbass.  But the instructor was very sweet to me and he gave me socks from one of the dummy’s we were going to decon.  I actually still have them.

So anyone who has been in these suits knows that they will duct tape you in.  Duct tape goes around your ankles and your wrists to make sure no chemical goes onto your skin. The suits they put us in were fairly big size.  I was swimming in my suit…the guy who insulted women and me in particular put his suit on and he ripped out of it.  The instructor had to come over and duct tape up the huge rips in his suit.  I looked at my insulter and said, “this is why fat guys shouldn’t be doing decon.”  I have nothing but love for heavy guys…but heavy guys who are assholes…no tolerance.  Needless to say I felt I had redeemed myself, may have just been redeemed in my own reality, but nonetheless, redeemed.

One year I was picked to put on the state patrol’s bomb squad suit.  It weighed 94 pounds and for part of the demonstration they told me they were going to lay me on my back in the suit…again, 94 pounds…and that in order to join the team, I had to roll over on my stomach and then get my knees under me and stand up.  I was able to roll over onto my stomach, I got my knees bent and was on all fours, but the suit was so long that I couldn’t stand up.  Fail.  The state patrol guys had to pick me up and put me on my feet and take the helmet off me.  At that point the classroom asked me to dance.  And me not wanting to disappoint the room, I stood, in a 94 pound bomb squad suit, at the Hanford Nuclear Plant training center, shaking my ass.  Best class so far.  One of my friends even filmed it.  I’ll try to attach it to this blog.  Teenage mutant ninja turtles comes to mind when I watch it.  Some may have thought I was a dumb ass that day…but it was one of my favorite classes so I truly don’t care what anyone thought.  (Here’s the link to the video:

This year I took a 3-day, 24 hour class on how to be in charge of a hazardous materials call.  This is very important for my job as most of the calls I go on are hazardous materials calls.  It was a good class, although a little brutal sitting on my butt in a class room for 9 hours a day for three days, but it made me realize that I’m not that much of a dumbass when it comes to this topic.  I knew quite a bit of what was being taught.

Now for the dumbass part.  The picture at the beginning of this blog post is of the revised name tag the boys I traveled to training with made up.  They thought it would be funny to change my nametag.  At the beginning of class the instructor was looking at all the name tags in class and kept staring at mine, then looking at me.  When I noticed this I turned to one of my friends sitting behind me and told him that I must look pretty good that morning because the instructor keeps smiling at me.  He just smiled and nodded…all the while thinking, your a dumbass for not noticing your name tag.  As the morning dragged on and we took our first break, I looked at my name tag and thought, why is there writing on the inside of that thing.  I grabbed the nametag and looked at the front of it…and what did I see?  Someone had changed my job title…dumbass.

Over the years of attending the training at HAMMER I have learned how to make meth and homemade bombs.  I’ve walked the training facility thru props of propane trucks on fire, railroad tankers on fire and climbed up the fire tower where firefighters train.  I have learned about pesticides, pipelines, railroads and have taken many, many terrorism classes there.  One of the best terrorism classes was when ‘high speed’ guys taught us how to detect a suicide bomber and showed some pretty messed up videos of what was going in the middle east.  They also taught us how to think like a terrorist.  For those people out there that think all of that can’t come here…think again.  Very scary stuff.

This training is awesome, and I will definitely take everything I have learned at this facility into the next phase of my life.  It’s made me a lot more situationally aware, able to think on my feet and outside the box.  While I’m out there traveling I will be able to travel smarter.  Especially in other countries where this sort of stuff is happening more often then it does here.

Each year I attend I learn lots of things I was not aware of and has helped me do my job even better.  I have made many contacts there that I utilize still to this day in my job.  As for the people I travel with over there, they are amazing, and more importantly I get to know them well which helps us work better on calls together.

and the beer and shenanigans ain’t too bad either…but always remember, ‘what happens in HAMMER, happens in HAMMER’

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